Today I ran across an interesting video prepared by a Holland American Line passenger following the boiler fire on the M/S Westerdam.
You may recall that the Westerdam caught fire on June 28, 2014 as it was sailing to Alaska. The automatic fire suppression did not extinguish the fire and the crew had to use hoses to extinguish the fire. The fire flared up again and the crew has to extinguish it a second time. The Coast Guard forced the cruise ship to turn around and return to Seattle. You can read about the incident here.
HAL CEO Stein Kruse came aboard the ship later that night and spoke to the passengers. He said that one reason he came aboard was "to get this completely straight."
He was very apologetic. He said that one port of the seven day "full Alaskan experience" would be lost. He promised that to make up for the fire and lost port, the passengers would receive a $250 credit to use on the ship. Plus, Kruse said that in order to make amends:
" . . . we will send you a note to give a 25% discount off a future Holland American Line cruise."
However, when a passenger later tried to a buy a cruise with the promised 25% discount, a HAL customer representative told the passenger that CEO Kruse had misspoke. The representative said that the 25% discount was good only for a cruise of a comparable price as the cruise in question on the Westerdam.
Of course, this is not what the cruise CEO said. Kruse was very deliberate, careful and precise with his words. "25% discount off a future Holland America Line cruise." There were no limitations, exclusions or caveats mentioned at all.
The customer representative wouldn't budge. She said that "our policy is that we don't protect verbal misquotes . . . that goes from all the way from our reservations department up to our CEO."
The guest representative also referred to a "speech," which Kruse allegedly read from, which according to the cruise representative "specifically states that the credit would be from the sailing of the Westerdam." But this is not what Kruse said.
In most circumstances, cruise passengers are at the mercy of the fine print and the legal mumbo-jumbo buried in the passenger ticket. But here a cruise CEO came aboard to "make amends" and to be "completely straight" with the passengers following a fire. The CEO made a promise, not a "verbal misquote."
There is a legal issue whether what CEO Kruse said is legally binding on this cruise line. I think it is. But some other lawyer can sue HAL and argue about that. But it's a real shame, from a public relations perspective, when the clear promises of a cruise executive are meaningless and can be easily disavowed by a low level reservations clerk.
Shortly after the Holland America Line (HAL)'s Westerdam caught on fire this weekend, HAL issued a press release characterizing the fire as "small" and "quickly" extinguished. It also said that it returned to port in Seattle "out of an abundance of caution."
Cruise line press statements like this rarely tell the whole story. We know that this fire was not immediately extinguished by the automatic suppression system on the ship and had to be fought by crew members with fire hoses, but the fire still re-ignited. The cruise line did not bother to explain why the fire ignited in the first place. Was it a ruptured fuel or oil line? If so, did the cruise ship have splash guards? Was it a mechanical failure of some type? Why wasn't the fire suppressed by the automatic systems? Why did it re-ignite?
Carnival Corporation, HAL's parent company and the owner of the cruise ship, stated last year that it invested hundreds of millions of dollars in safety improvements throughout its fleet of ship, primarily in the engine rooms. The announcement was a major public relations strategy after the bad press following the fires aboard the Triumph and other Carnival cruise ships. Did the Westerdam receive any of the much touted safety improvements?
There are many hundreds of newspaper articles mentioning the fire. But no one is asking these basic questions. Returning to port after a fire "out of an abundance of caution," seems like a gross understatement to me. Can you imagine a major airline battling a fire and then saying that it returned to the airport voluntarily, just to be on the safe side?
A fire at sea is one of the most dangerous experiences imaginable. But most cruise fans don't seem to be particularly bothered by these issues. HAL quickly announced a $250 per cabin credit to be used during the remainder of the cruise which is now continuing. The incident will soon find itself out of the news and forgotten.
King 5 News in Seattle reports that the Holland America Line (HAL) Westerdam caught fire this evening as it was sailing to Alaska and was forced to turn around and return to Seattle. The news station is saying that the fire broke out in the engine room.
"There has been a small fire in one of the boiler rooms onboard MS Westerdam as she sailed from Seattle earlier this evening which was quickly extinguished. All guests and crew are safe. Out of an abundance of caution and in coordination with the United States Coast Guard the ship has returned to Seattle. The ship is fully operational and there has been no impact on guest services. It is anticipated that the ship will depart again once the assessments are completed and continue her voyage to Alaska."
HAL's statement does not explain exactly what caused the fire and omits the fact that after the fire was put out, it flared up again. Descriptive phrases like a "small" fire which was "quickly" extinguished can be misleading many times.
The Westerdam is a 10 year old cruise ship and is owned by Carnival Corporation.
June 29th Update: The Seattle Times reports that the cruise ship has left Seattle to continue its cruise. It also provided a little bit more detail regarding the fire. Interesting, the automatic fire suppression did not extinguish the fire and the crew had to use hoses:
"The Westerdam left Seattle again around 10:15 a.m. Sunday, said Public Relations Vice President Sally Andrews.
Because of the delay, Holland America has revised the 7-day sailing schedule. Passengers will miss their visit to Sitka, but will be given a credit of $250 per room to use during the cruise.
Coast Guard petty officer George Degener told The Seattle Times the ship's crew knocked the fire down, but a while later it restarted.
A combination of high-pressure mist and crew members with hoses extinguished the fire, Kyle Moore, spokesman for the Seattle Fire Department, told the paper. The city dispatched a fireboat, and a few units to the Pier 91 cruise terminal, as a precaution."
Neither the cruise line nor the Coast Guard have explained why the fire broke out.
"There was a small electrical fire in the engine room on the Saga Sapphire at 10am on 16th May. This was quickly and professionally dealt with by the crew. The ship is currently anchored, in fine weather, off the Isle of Mull whilst the damaged electrical panel is repaired and tested. Our priority is always to make sure our passengers and crew are safe and well."
The cruise ship knocked out the ship's power supply.
@eliseislost posted on Twitter: "my grandparents are stuck on a cruise ship because of an electrical fire off the coast of scotland amazing."
We have been notified that there was a fire which affected a "few cabins" this afternoon on the Carnival Valor, which is currently docked at port in St. Thomas U.S.V.I.
A person on the cruise ship informed us that the cruise ship was supposed to depart St. Thomas at 5:00 P.M. but the captain of the ship announced that the departure was delayed due to the fire which apparently (reportedly) went from one cabin to another. The cause and type of fire has not been explained to us.
The ship reportedly will sail later tonight.
We are awaiting confirmation and an explanation from Carnival which we contacted upon receipt of the information.
Update: Here's the statement which we received today from Carnival at 6:21 P.M.:
CARNIVAL VALOR STATEMENT
February 10, 2014 - 5:15 pm EDT
Earlier today while the Carnival Valor was docked in St. Thomas, a small fire was detected in one stateroom located on deck 8. The ship’s automatic sprinkler system activated and quickly extinguished the fire. All of the ship’s hotel and safety systems continued to function as normal.
Although there was smoke in the area, there were no injuries to guests or crew. Other than the one affected cabin, all other cabins in the area are undamaged.
The ship, which departed on a seven-day cruise from San Juan yesterday, is scheduled to sail from St. Thomas later this evening and arrive in Barbados on Wednesday.
Carnival Valor operates year-round seven-day southern Caribbean cruises from San Juan.
Two and a half days ago, a cruise passenger on the Carnival Magic emailed us and told us that: (1) the ship was delayed returning to Galveston by fog (2) a fire had apparently broken out on deck 11 causing smoke and ending up with the hallways drenched with water, and (3) a Coast Guard helicopter medevaced an ill passenger from the cruise ship.
The email from the Carnival passenger came to me early Sunday morning shortly after 7:30 AM as the ship waited for the flog to lift and I waited for my first cup of coffee. We emailed Carnival for confirming information, and then published our article around 1:00 P.M. We included Carnival's comments that a fire allegedly didn't break out and that the smoke was caused, as Carnival says, by an "overheated electrical component." Carnival also confirmed the Coast Guard helicopter medevac.
Today, two days after we published our article, Cruise Critic published an article entitled: Smoke Scare Onboard Carnival Cruise Ship. The Cruise Critic article discussed the smoke versus fire issue and mentioned that a cruise passenger was medevaced Saturday afternoon and fog caused a delay in the ship getting back to Galveston.
The Cruise Critic article relied on information we released (and spun the story in favor of Carnival) without any credit for the story to us.
It is the norm in reporting and the world of social media to acknowledge sources of information. For example, when the Daily Mail in the U.K. (one of the most widely-read internet newspapers in the world) writes a cruise story which we break, it will cite us and link to us. You may think that the Daily Mail is sensational, but linking to sources is what reputable, professionals do. For example, read this Daily Mail article based on information in our blog which we broke after a cruise passenger emailed us.
One thing that we take seriously here at Cruise Law News is being 100% accurate and transparent in crediting the right people and organizations responsible for breaking news stories. None of our stories ever go out without a credit. It does not matter if it's our rival law firms. If someone had a big verdict against a Miami-based cruise line, we report it. We name the lawyer and include a photograph. No other law firm does that.
If Cruise Critic, USA Today's CruiseLog, Cruise Currents, CruiseMates or who-know-who breaks a story, we will of course name them and provide a link to their site.
Many people criticize us for writing about negative cruise stories and having a vendetta against Carnival and Royal Caribbean. You may not like our opinions. Readers should take our articles with a grain of salt. After all, our motto here is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know." We are often on television, cable news, radio and in newspapers sending our view of cruising out into the stratosphere. We know it is irritating to the hard core cruise fans.
You can disagree and criticize us for our opinions, but you cannot ever fault us for being anything other than honest in crediting the sources of our stories.
Cruise Critic, on the other hand, is not transparent. It takes credit for other's information. It can be a shill all it wants. But it should not take credit when it is not due.
I suppose, from that perspective, it is the perfect publication to cover the far-from-transparent cruise industry.
On Twitter today, a travel agent bemoaned that a video entitled "Cruise Ship Nightmares" was airing. What particularly perturbed the travel agent was the fact that the CNN video first aired last summer and was recirculating as fresh news.
This particular video was well produced and quite provocative. Images of burned cruise ships and passengers sleeping out on mattresses on the decks, with the caption "Keeping Secrets on the High Seas - Crashes, Fires, Stalls Plague Secretive Cruise Industry."
I remember this video well. I was interviewed in it.
I had an opportunity to talk about a number of issues which the cruise lines and many travel agents don't want the public to know. Like the fact that Miami-based cruise lines, such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean, are incorporated in places like Panama and Liberia and register their ship in other foreign countries like the Bahamas to avoid all U.S. taxes, labor, wage and safety laws.
So when a fire breaks out or a rape occurs on these cruise ships flying the flag of the Bahamas, it's this little island which is incapable of keeping its own citizens safe that is responsible for investigating what occurs on cruise ships full of U.S. citizens.
It would be a joke if it was not so disgraceful.
My favorite CNN video involved Silversea Cruises caught hiding trolleys of perishable food down in the crew quarters in an effort to bamboozle sanitation inspectors for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Crew members complained to us about this nasty practice. We told them to notify the CDC about the cruise line scheme. We involved CNN after the haughty cruise line refused to communicate with us. The CNN video told the story beautifully.
CNN's video of the Carnival Triumph disaster revealed that Carnival knew that there were major problems with not maintaining the ship's engines and fuel lines but the cruise line intentionally sailed when the cruise ship was unseaworthy.
You can complain all you want that CNN covered the Carnival "poop cruise" 24 hours a day, it seemed. But the coverage was thorough and the specials are excellent. People love to watch them. That's why CNN plays them over and over.
So the next time that a ship catches on fire, or become disabled, you can bet that CNN will be covering the story.
This morning at 7:39 AM, I received the following information from a passenger on the Carnival Magic returning to port in Galveston:
"We sit outside the harbor in the fog this morning. Last night the coast guard had to airlift a passenger for medical reasons and yesterday morning we had a fire. Deck 11 forward. The crew says it was not a fire but hot electrical. Smoke was coming down to other decks, there is water and wet floors up there so they can call it what they want . . . Pic of the chopper attached."
We are also told Carnival had fans and machines out on deck 11 and there was standing water in the halls. One passenger said "it might have just been a hot circuit but they sure used a lot of water, which made no sense on electrical."
Passengers are now disembarking from the cruise ship.
Does anyone on this cruise have information, photos or video to share?
"On Saturday morning aboard the Carnival Magic, there was a smell of smoke reported along a guest corridor. The issue was identified as an overheated electrical component within an air conditioning vent located within a guest stateroom. There was no fire. The issue has since been fixed. Guests were kept apprised of the situation with announcements over the ship’s public address system and shipboard staff were positioned in the area where the smoke was reported to advise guests and answer any questions.
Additionally, on Saturday afternoon, the ship rendezvoused with a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter to airlift a guest in need of immediate medical attention. The guest was taken to a shoreside medical facility for further treatment.
Carnival Magic was on a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean that returned to its home port of Galveston earlier this morning."
Reeling from a CNN special report indicating that it delayed maintaining the diesel engines and fuel lines in the Triumph and other cruise ships, Carnival was hit last night with an article published by the Associated Press stating that the cruise line knew that the Triumph was a fire trap but it took chances with its passengers' lives.
In the article titled Suit: Fire Risk Known Before Carnival Ship Sailed, the AP cited deposition testimony from the Triumph's captain admitting that Carnival had known about the fuel leak problem since March of 2012, a year before the fire. The captain stated that spray guards, a makeshift measure to deal with leaky fuel lines, were partially installed on the cruise ship but not on the engine which caught fire.
The CNN program and the AP article paint a grim image of a ship with a neglected engine room, in violation of the International Maritime Organization's Safety of Life at Sea recommendations, which was ready to ignite with 4,000 souls aboard.
According to the AP, Houston lawyer Frank Spagnoletti characterized Carnival as reckless: "It was unbelievable to me that you would take 4,000 people and put them in a situation of basically Russian roulette. Basically every time that vessel went out they never knew whether they were going to have a fire or not."
Responding to these allegations yesterday, Carnival played dumb and denied everything. The AP quoted Carnival saying: "The leak in the flexible fuel hose was a completely unexpected accident that took place. What ignited the fuel is unknown." Carnival called the spray guards a "best practice."
Carnival may be trying to distance itself from the negative press surrounding the Triumph debacle (and the Concordia disaster before that), but denials and flimsy excuses like these demonstrate that the cruise line's reputation seems as poorly maintained as its cruise ships.
Anderson Cooper aired a short special last night on his program AC360.
Over and over again, Carnival engineers indicated on their Triumph inspection reports and maintenance records that one of the ship's diesel generators was way past due for maintenance. The cruise ship was out of compliance with the IMO's Safety of Life at Sea requirements.
Carnival irresponsibly delayed and deferred maintenance and overhaul of the diesel engine.
The program indicates that the Triumph had a dangerous propensity for a fire problem but Carnival neglected the engines and then set sail anyway. CNN said that the fire was a disaster waiting to happen and the cruise line risked the passengers' lives and well being.
The problem could be traced back for over a year to a "dangerous pattern" of fuel line leaks on other ships, including the Carnival owned Costa Allegra which previously erupted in fire.
This fire, which disabled the Allegra, fore-shadowed the Triumph fire. There were reportedly nine instances of fuel leaks from flexible fuel hoses throughout Carnival's fleet. The cruise line was recommending the installation of spray shields on some but not all of its ships to protect the flanges and hoses from leaking fuel on hot spots which would ignite.
The hose which was not shielded on the Triumph sprayed fuel which ignited the fire. This was foreseeable and preventable.
The documents were produced by Carnival in a lawsuit filed by a lawyer in Houston.
Carnival is defending the lawsuit by saying that no one was physically injured. Plus it claims that the cruise line offers no promise of a safe trip and passengers have no right to sue for unsafe or unsanitary conditions during the cruise.
Carnival also says that it is spending 300 million dollars to make improvements and prevent fires.
"Majestic International’s MV OCEAN COUNTESS, completed in 1976 as CUNARD COUNTESS, is currently ablaze at Chalkis, where she has been laid up since her most recent charter to U.K.-based Cruise and Maritime Voyages. The ship was scheduled to return to cruise service in 2014 but this now looks unlikely as aerial video footage shows her superstructure fully engulfed in flames."
Do you have any information, photos, or video of the fire?
We were the first to report on the fire which broke out sometime after 8:00 PM Friday night as the Dawn Princess sailed between Wellington and Napier in New Zealand.
Princess Cruises was tight lipped about what happened, stating only that a fire occurred in an electrical substation on deck six of the ship.
Other than Travel Agent Central, no newspapers or news stations in the U.S. have reported on the fire, even though U.S. citizens were aboard and the Carnival owned Princess Cruises is based in California.
An Australian newspaper, the Herald Sun, published a short article. The Herald Sun reported that crew members stated that the fire suppression system, which should have suppressed the fire, failed. That appears to explain why over 30 minutes after the fire was first reported (when the passengers were initially ordered to their cabins) the captain ordered them to their muster stations where they remained for over an hour.
A fire on the high seas is serious business. A fire and a failed suppression system on the high seas is potentially deadly.
But there appears to be little appreciation of this danger expressed on the few social media sites discussing the incident. Regular cruisers on cruise fan sites like Cruise Critic appear more interested in praising the crew for battling the fire than having a meaningful discussion about why the fire broke out and why the fire suppression reportedly failed (assuming the Herald Sun account is correct).
Don't get me wrong. The crew members who battled the fire and risked their lives deserve the credit. But if you really care about the crew's safety and well-being, you would demand an explanation why the automatic fire suppression system reportedly failed necessitating the heroic action by the crew.
What is troubling from my perspective is not only are there fires, but the automatic suppression systems which are suppose to put the fire out are failing. For example, the Carnival Splendor and the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas fires both involved failed suppression systems.
Regarding the high profile Splendor fire, CNN reported that "the U.S. Coast Guard said the ship's CO2 firefighting system had failed to operate correctly due to leaks, poor maintenance and component failures."
What's the explanation for the reported failure of the suppression system on the Dawn? It is over 16 years old. Do other Princess Cruises ships have the same problem? Princess will never say, and it does not appear that the public is clamoring to find out.
For the time being, it looks like we will all remain in the dark. Perhaps when the Dawn returns to Sydney on November 15th some of the passengers and crew will have more to say.
Princess escaped scrutiny on this latest incident so far because the fire occurred on a Friday night on the other side of the world at the beginning of a three day Veteran's Day weekend when many in the U.S. newspaper and television businesses were on vacation. It also appears that the public may well be tired of non-stop cruise-ship-bad-news.
Luckily there were no injuries due to this latest fire. The only casualty appears to be the public's demand for an explanation regarding what went wrong on the Dawn last weekend.
Friday evening, a fire broke out on the Dawn Princess. 30 minutes after the first public announcement, the cruise ship's captain ordered the passengers to their muster stations where they remained for over another hour until the fire was extinguished.
We first learned of the fire when a reader of this blog contacted us on Saturday. We followed up with a request for information from the public which we made on our Facebook page. On Sunday morning, we posted a first hand account from a passenger currently aboard the cruise ship.
This particular passenger indicated that the crew handled the emergency well. The ship was back to business as usual within three hours of the first report of the fire. Even the bars were packed!
But lacking from the account was an explanation or even any curiosity regarding why the fire broke out in the first place; why the passengers were ordered to muster 30 minutes after the fire was first reported; and why it apparently took well over an hour for the fire to be extinguished.
We requested a statement from Princess Cruises on Sunday. We received a two skimpy sentence response with no explanation regarding what caused the fire and why it was not extinguished by the automatic suppression systems.
Today there have been no national or international newspapers covering the story. Travel Agent Central published a story quoting our account. Cruise Critic just wrote a three sentence story that contained even less substance than the meager cruise line statement.
No major media companies have published anything about the event. The sentiment from regular cruisers who have contacted us seems nonchalant with no inquiries regarding why & how the fire erupted.
I understand that people who are in the middle of a cruise vacation would prefer to continue their fun-filled vacation than conduct a worrisome forensic cause & origin analysis. But the public's understanding of incidents like this is important to maintaining a safe and responsible cruise industry. A vigilant press which asks tough questions is a fundamental part of that process.
Even a small fire that is quickly extinguished is potentially a big deal when you are on the high seas.
Remember that the deadly Star Princess fire started off with something as small and seemingly innocuous as a cigarette smoldering in a towel on a balcony. The result was an inferno which ravaged the ship, destroyed 100 cabins, killed one passenger and injured many others (photo right).
I'm wondering if the major newspapers are burned out on fires at sea?
This weekend, Cruise Law News received information that on the night of November 8th, the Dawn Princess cruise ship experienced a fire which occurred in an electrical sub-station on deck 6. Passengers were called to their muster stations while fire fighting teams extinguished the fire. There were no passenger or crew injuries.
Today we asked for more information from the public on our Facebook page. We received the information below, which comes from a cruise passenger currently on the Dawn.
If you have additional information or photographs regarding the incident, please let us hear from you.
"Anytime dining as we were late leaving Wellington . . . We had dinner then headed for coffee when the Captain came on. There had been an emergency announcement earlier but we thought it was medical, not so. The captain explained there was smoke deck 6 starboard, forward and would we all return to our cabins. WOW. we watched as the stores closed and the crew ran. Then the captain came on again to tell us there was a fire in an electrical locker on deck 6 forward and the fire party was dealing with it. We are still in our cabin as requested. We have opened the door to look up and down the hall. All the crew are in lifejackets standing in the hall. Some passengers have doors open and talking to the crew. It started about 8:30 it is now about 9:00
Well another update time is 9:30 and we are in our muster station after the captain told us to grab our life jackets, warm clothes and head to muster. We have our jackets, passports, money and medication. The muster must have over 500 people, some forgot life jackets, some did not get scanned so they are calling names of people who are not accounted for.
It certainly has been exciting. Nothing we have ever gone thru before. We are SO impressed with the emergency procedures. No anxiety at all.
10:10pm and we are released. A very interesting experience. The bars are jam packed, fuller than we have ever seen them. We are at the coffee bar now, starting where we left off with coffee and a Rusty nail. As of 10:40 they have released cabins on Emerald deck, deck 6, meaning the occupants can now return to them. Two cabins numbers are being called on Emerald and we think they might have some smoke damaged."
November 10 2013 Update: We asked Princess Cruises for a statement. Princess responded as follows: "Several days ago a fire occurred in an electrical locker on Dawn Princess. It was extinguished and there were no passenger or crew injuries." The cruise line declined to explain why the fire broke out or why it took an hour and one-half to extinguish it.
News Channel 12 WPRI in East Providence, Rhode Island aired a broadcast today about Senator Rockefeller's newly introduced consumer legislation designed to require the cruise industry to report serious crimes which occur on the high seas.
Channel 12 says that "In the wake of recent horror stories on the high seas, lawmakers have introduced a key bill that could help the estimated 21-million Americans expected to set sail on a cruise ship this year."
Cruise executives boast that cruising is safe and that the cruise lines transparently report all crimes at sea. Unfortunately that's not true.
The news station states that "over the last five years, there have been 63 fires on board cruise ships and a total of 44 cruise related collisions." I checked the actual data at the website of cruise expert Ross Klein and noted that there were actually 61 cruise fires and 52 collisions / allisons during the time period in question.
Among other key provisions introduced by Senator Rockefeller, the proposed Cruise Passenger Protection Act would create a toll-free hotline for consumer complaints, and provide passengers a clear summary of the onerous terms and conditions of the cruise passenger contracts.
Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Coast Guard finally released its report regarding the engine room fire which disabled the Carnival Splendor cruise ship on November 8, 2010.
The Coast Guard's reported concluded, in a nutshell, that cylinders in one of the large diesel engines sustained a catastrophic failure with the rods and pistons cracking and exploding out of the engine which permitted lube oil and fuel oil to ignite. The pistons sustained long term metal fatigue which was not checked due to an absence of appropriate maintenance and record keeping by Carnival. Other parts of the engine showed severe, advanced corrosion reflective of an absence of regular inspection and maintenance.
The fire was not suppressed due to the failure of the CO2 system and mistakes and a lack of training by the ship's crew. The crew reset the automatic suppression alarm and failed to manually activate the water mist system which permitted the fire to spread. It took the crew two hours to locate the fire due to the firefighters' unfamiliarity with the engine room. The Coast Guard faulted the crew for using portable dry chemicals and carbon dioxide extinguishers rather than fire hoses. And the captain permitted the fire to continue by trying to ventilate the engine room before the fire was completely extinguished.
Although the Coast Guard was critical of Carnival's neglect in inspecting and maintaining the engine which failed, it should be pointed out that the Coast Guard conducted an annual Control Verification Exam on November 7, 2010 and passed the vessel. What an embarrassment for the Coast Guard to have inspected the cruise ship the day before the fire and permitted it to sail with passengers.
Another interesting pint is the time line of the fire. The fire was not finally and completely extinguished for over nine hours. This is a far cry from the initial reports from the cruise line which tried to reassure the passengers that the fire was not a big deal and was under control,
Its curious why it took well over two and one-half years for the Coast Guard to release its report. The reality is that the Coast Guard and the cruise line and the companies which the cruise line pay to become involved in the investigation exchange information and review a draft copy of the Coast Guard report before it is "official" and is released to the public.
Six weeks ago, the Grandeur of the Seas burst into flames on the high seas. It took two hours before the crew could finally extinguish the blaze. The cruise ship has since been in dry dock in the Bahamas under repair.
Yesterday travel agents and the cruise & travel media who Royal Caribbean invited aboard the cruise sailed on a one day cruise out of Baltimore for promotional purposes. Today passengers will sail on a one week cruise. One news station out of Baltimore broadcast that the Grandeur is "repaired and ready to sail."
The problem is that repairs to the cruise ship are still ongoing.
Over 150 passengers from 78 cabins were bumped from the cruise today because their cabins are still being reconstructed.
Travel agents aboard the ship report that repair work is still ongoing. According to Cruise Critic, in addition to the 78 cabins which are not ready for passengers, several lounges (Diamond Club & South Pacific Lounge) which burned last month will remain closed.
The concern that I have when I hear news like this is whether the cruise ship is really ready to sail and, most importantly, safe for passengers to cruise? Remember that there has been no report released of what caused the fire in the first place. We previously wrote about the tendency of the cruise lines to bring their ships back to service quickly and long before the official analysis is completed, assuming an official report is ever prepared. Read What Caused the Grandeur of the Seas Fire?
The investigation into the Grandeur fire is being overseen by the Bahamas, with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Cruise Critic says that the "Bahamas Maritime Authority is currently drafting a final report on the incident." Hogwash. The Bahamas was responsible for investigating the fire which disabled the Carnival Triumph (the infamous "poop cruise" five months ago) and the Bahamas has still not finalized a report on that cruise fire yet.
And there has been no report released on the cause of the other high profile cruise ship fire which occurred aboard Carnival's Splendor and left it disabled. That fire occurred over two and one-half years ago. Another flag of convenience country (Panama) was responsible for overseeing that investigation, but has released nothing.
Its seems irresponsible to pile many thousands of travel agents and cruise passengers (not to mention the hard working crew) aboard the ship without telling the guests why the last time the Grandeur sailed several thousands of people stood at their muster stations in the middle of the night watching the lifeboat being deployed as the fire raged for two hours.
What caused the fire? Why was the fire not extinguished by an automatic system? Is there even an automatic suppression at the mooring area at the stern of the ship? If not, shouldn't one be installed?
Were any of the travel agents and travel media asking these questions? Do any of the passengers boarding the cruise ship this morning care about these basic issues?
Early this morning a fire broke out in the engine room of the Zenith cruise ship, formerly operated by Celebrity Cruises and now operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises owned Pullmantur Cruises,
The fire started at approximately 03:48 AM today while the cruise ship sailed from Ravenna to Venice with 1672 passengers on board.
The engine room was damaged to the point that the ship was disabled and had to anchor 17 miles off Venice. The ship had to be towed by 4 tugs to Venice this afternoon.
The Zenith was built 1992 and flies the flag of convenience of Malta.
The incident will add to the controversy of the increasing presence of cruise ships in the lagoon of Venice which has been the site of protests from local Italian community groups and environmental activists.
It is also the latest cruise ship fire in a string of fires which have disabled ships lately including the recent fire aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas and the Carnival Triumph among others.
I last saw the Zenith two years ago when it was docked in Royal Caribbean's new port in Falmouth Jamaica (photo below next to Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas; smokestack later painted blue).
There is remarkably little news in the U.S. press regarding yet another disabling cruise ship fire even though the ship is operated by Pullmantur Cruises which is owned by Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises.
Its been a week since a fire erupted on the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas.
There has been widespread praise for the actions of the crew in extinguishing the fire, and for the manner in which the cruise line's public relations representatives kept the public informed via Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media.
But there has been little focus on the facts and circumstances surrounding the fire. What caused it? Why did it take two hours before the fire was extinguished? And what can be done to prevent a cruise ship fire like this in the future?
Few people are expressing interest in these basic questions. Most discussions at cruise and travel sites address the cruise line's compensation of reimbursing the cruise fare, chartering flights back to Baltimore, and providing a discount on a future cruise.
The cruising public seems focused primarily on obtaining a fun and affordable vacation. When things go wrong during cruises, the focus turns primarily on whether passengers are going to get their money back and obtain other reimbursements for the lost vacation.
The few websites which have addressed the issue of why the fire occurred almost uniformly seem to conclude that the public should not speculate, and everyone should wait until the "official report" is released.
What a naive thought. There still is no official report released into the cause of the fire which disabled the Carnival Splendor off the coast of Mexico in November 2010. That was two and one-half years ago. The investigation is the responsibility of the flag-of-convenience country, Panama. Although Panama permitted investigators from the U.S. Coast Guard to be involved, it is Panama which is running the investigation.
The Bahamas is the flag-of-convenience country for the Grandeur of the Seas and is responsible for the investigation into the cause of the fire. Although the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were invited to be involved, the Bahamas will be calling the shots. The Bahamas is also the flag state for the fire-disabled Carnival Triumph and there is no "official report" yet about that fire four months ago,
Will the Bahamas prepare an objective, thorough, honest and timely report into the cause of the Grandeur fire? Don't expect one anytime soon.
Many people who have contacted us point out that the aft of the cruise ship where the fire started is a location where crew members catch a quick smoke. There is also a crew bar on the stern of the ship. Did a crew member flick a cigarette which ignited the mooring lines? If true, that would be an unpopular theory considering the great amount of praise that the crew members are receiving for extinguishing the fire.
If a cigarette was involved, was it flicked from an upper passenger balcony? We will probably never know the culprit. A cigarette can cause a fire which smolders and then suddenly bursts into flames, like the deadly Star Princess fire in 2006.
Was it a fire of an electrical origin? Some have suggested that. Was it arson and intentionally set? I have heard that too.
Why was the fire not automatically extinguished?
Should the public be asking these questions? Is it appropriate to demand honest answers sooner than later?
Or should we avoid speculation and wait several years to see if an "official report" is finally issued by the Bahamas several years from now?
June 3 2013 Update: We received this interesting information from a experienced crew member who wishes to remain anonymous:
"If the fire initiated on deck 3 aft, this is the place where are located all the mooring ropes, and it is also the mooring deck. Now you know from the fire on the Ecstacy, how much are dangerous the polypropylene mooring ropes, once they are ignited. The mooring deck 4, is also officially a smoking area for crew, it seems strange, but it is what it is. All crew, specially from galleys goes in the aft mooring deck for smoking and mingling together, although this is nonsense, still Royal allows to do so. I personally think that a cigarette butts once again, started it all. I cannot conceive anything else. To be noted that in the aft mooring deck, there is also the CO2 station, with all the batteries of big CO2 cylinders that are deputed to extinguish fires in the engine rooms, if this area is compromised, CO2 will be affected as well. Also, I am sure Royal made all the possible moves to make disappear the 2 barbecue grills that are located there, mooring deck aft is also the place where once a month all crew gather together for a nice party, usually hosted by the deck department.......
Since the fire on the Ecstasy, SOLASs wanted to install a sprinkler system also in the mooring deck, but this system is manually activated then is not activated automatically. If the sprinkler were automatic, fire would be extinguished more quickly. In the aft mooring deck, is located also the paint locker, a source also of a lot of things that can get easily fire.
One deck above the mooring deck, there is the crew bar area, where it is possible to smoke as well. It is also the place where a lot of crew get trashed with alcohol. I don't exclude also, that someone might throw a cigarette overboard, and this returning back on board, ignited the mooring ropes,,,,very easy, again happened in the past, with Princess and the fire in the balconies. The crew bar is open deck, one deck above the mooring deck, on this level there is also the emergency diesel generator. One deck above, on level 5, there are the spare life rafts and the crew muster stations.
This time they were lucky, because a massive fire, could have the ship totally impaired, CO2 stations, emergency generator, crew muster stations, spare life rafts might all getting burned......."
Cruise ships like Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas have different emergency evacuation systems for the passengers and the crew. Passengers are loaded onto lifeboats at their muster stations on the port and starboard sides of the ship and then lowered into the water. The lifeboat is motored away from the burning or sinking ship by a crew member.
Crew members, on the other hand, are required to use life-rafts which are jettisoned into the sea from large canisters primarily located at the stern of the ship.
You can see right canisters in the image above and sixteen canisters located at the stern of the Grandeur in the video below (credit: solandtravel / YouTube) which was sent to my attention this morning by cruise expert Professor Ross Klein.
These canisters, and the evacuation chutes and life-rafts therein, appear to have been destroyed or partially burned during in the two hour fire early Monday morning (see photo below right, via WTSP.com). It is my understanding that the life-rafts have a capacity of around 25 persons each. So assuming these 16 canisters were all that were destroyed in the fire, life-rafts for around 400 crew members - about 50% of the crew - may have been burned up.
There are some "extra" canisters on the cruise ship, but not nearly enough to accommodate all of the crew.
If the fire on the Grandeur had not been extinguished, the passengers would have been safely evacuated in the lifeboats which had already been lowered to deck level and were awaiting loading upon order of the ship's Master. But a few hundred crew members may have found themselves faced with jumping into the water.
Considering that a nearby Carnival cruise ship was on standby, and Coast Guard vessels were enroute, the crew members without a life-raft may have been transferred to other vessels in this particular case. But a fire like this which is not contained, and which occurs further at sea and in rougher weather, may pose serious consequences to the crew's safety.
Cruise fans have largely praised Royal Caribbean's public relations efforts in responding to the fire which erupted aboard the Grandeur of the Seas early Monday morning.
Royal Caribbean tweeted updates from its new Twitter PR feed @RoyalCaribPR and updated its Facebook page. It uploaded one photo showing a portion of the damage to to fire stricken cruise ship (a good PR move) and one image of cruise president Goldstein inspecting the damage once the ship arrived in Freeport. But most of the of the photos Royal Caribbean released were of the cruise president and executives meeting with cruise passengers at the port and on the cruise ship.
The question I wondered was where are the photos and video of the fire? We have handled other cruise ship fires. There are usually videos taken by passengers which quickly find their way to the media and/or are posted on YouTube, as in the case of the deadly Star Princess fire off the coast of Jamaica. You can't comprehend a ship fire until you have seen the flames and billowing smoke and listened to the frightening sounds surrounding such an event.
The first information released about the Grandeur fire was that the fire was limited to deck 3. But in truth, the fire damaged decks 3, 4, 5 and a portion of 6 deck and burned for 2 hours.
So where are images of this 2 hour multi-deck fire?
A video report by ABC News states that the cruise ship's crew tried to stop passengers from taking pictures of the fire and chaos.
Carrie McTigue told ABC News that "even when people put their cameras up to photograph the sunrise, they were told, 'no photos.'"
I have seen Royal Caribbean try and stop passengers from taking photos of what the passengers though was a near collision between Royal Caribbean and Disney cruise ships which you can see in a video here. But some crew members responded that there is a policy against the taking of photos during a muster drill and that's why the crew interfered with the photography.
I am a big fan of "citizen journalists." I believe that photos and video taken by passengers and crew are an important part in telling the whole story of what really happens during ship fires and other cruise calamities. Even with Royal Caribbean's new and improved PR efforts, the fact remains that the cruise line released more photos of the cruise CEO reassuring passengers than of the damage to the ship. Plus there are absolutely no photos or video released of the fire itself.
Better cruise PR is still cruise PR. The cruise line still wants to control the images you see and your feelings about the experience.
Two and one-half years after the Carnival Splendor fire, there have been no photos or video released of the fire or the damage to the engine room (or even a report) regarding the disabled cruise ship. Regarding the more recent Carnival Triumph fire, again there are no images released of the fire. I am aware of only one innocuous photo of the fire damage in the engine room which was released by the Coast Guard.
Secrecy like this is not a good thing. The American public should not settle for a few photos of a cruise CEO drinking ice tea with passengers in a cafe after a ship fire. The release of full and complete reports, photos and video are important to maintain a transparent and safe cruising environment.
Today CNN and other networks have repeatedly aired images of the burned Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Grandeur of the Seas.
I clicked on the flat screen TV in my office this afternoon and took the photos below, of the burned stern of the cruise ship and passengers with life-vests on, in the casino and on deck at their muster stations.
Royal Caribbean's handling of the fire was considered a lot more transparent than the way Carnival communicated with the public following the fire which disabled the Carnival Triumph. But the Grandeur never lost power, whereas the Triumph was disabled 90 miles from shore and then drifted to 150 miles offshore before a tug arrived. Yesterday Royal Caribbean's president, Adam Goldstein, took a 45 minute flight from Miami to Freeport. Photos of him speaking with passengers while drinking ice tea in a cafe on the cruise ship seemed reassuring to the U.S. public who have been inundated with images from CNN of the last cruise-from-hell stories.
But when is enough bad publicity enough? I read many comments to news stories of this latest cruise fire from readers who thought this was another Carnival cruise ship fire. And even if the general public can distinguish between Carnival and Royal Caribbean, there is clearly a consensus of people who believe that there are far too many cruise ships catching on fire these days.
According to ABC News, passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas said they heard "big explosions" after a fire broke out early Monday morning, charring the stern of the ship and forcing an early end to the cruise.
Royal Caribbean said the fire was discovered at 2:50 AM on Monday on the mooring area on deck three. The decks above were charred in the fire. Passenger remained at their muster stations until around 7:15 AM.
Passenger Luke Sluscher, 20, was awakened by the commotion. When he stepped outside his room, he "heard crew yelling mayday, mayday, as they ran to put out the fire."
Royal Caribbean is now flying passengers back to Baltimore from Freeport, Bahamas. Passengers will receive a full refund of their fare and a certificate for a future cruise.
News stations in South Florida are reporting that a fire broke out early this morning aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing off the Florida coast.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the fire broke out aboard the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas
The fire occurred on deck three on the 916-foot ship.
A NBC news station said that the fire was categorized as a “Class A” fire, meaning it broke out in solid combustible materials such as wood or plastic and did not involve fuel or other flammable liquids.
The cruise ship radioed for assistance. Another cruise ship, the Carnival Sensation, was on on standby to help the ship in case of evacuation. Passenger gathered at muster stations.
The fire was extinquished, although there are conflicting accounts of how long it took. A comment on the Cruise Critic site says that it took two hours to stop the fire.
A photo released by Royal Caribbean shows a huge fire and smoke residue on the stern of the cruise ship.
The Grandeur of the Seas was recently given a $48 million refurbishment and was based in Baltimore, according to the Royal Caribbean website.
The Grandeur was on its way to Coco Cay, Bahamas, when the fire broke out, according to a Royal Caribbean Cruises statement. The ship is now in Freeport, Bahamas, where it will be inspected.
A local news station in Miami reports that smoke was seen coming from the Carnival Cruise Lines headquarters today, prompting worries of a fire inside.
Smoke could be seen coming from the top of the Carnival headquarters.
Carnival denied there was a fire, and released a statement stating that an elevator transformer on the roof overheated and generated smoke.
This story reminds me of an incident a year ago when a small fire broke out on the Carnival Breeze but was quickly extinguished. When the story of the fire made the news, Carnival denied that a fire occurred and said instead that "a fan belt inside an AC unit in a crew area overheated and started generating smoke."
It seems that with Carnival where there's smoke, there's no fire.
Ten days ago we reported on a fire which occurred aboard a small cruise ship / river cruise called the King of the Nile. The reports out of Egypt were that none of the passengers or crew members were injured.
But the popular cruise blog Noticias de Cruceros reported passenger accounts suggesting that the fire was far worse than reported and may have caused injuries and fatalities.
Cruise lines, travel companies and tourism bureaus often down-play fires and casualties like this to avoid scaring off customers and disrupting tourism. Fortunately, there are websites like Noticias de Cruceros which will publish photos like this so that the cruising public can make up its own mind about the dangers of some types of travel and vacation advertisements. Do you trust cruise, travel and tourism representatives to tell you the whole story? Join the discussion of our Facebook page.
The comments indicate that there was a great deal of smoke but the fire was extinguished without injury to passengers or crew. There is conflicting information regarding exactly where the fire occurred. There is a mention of the fire being on deck 9, although the heading to the comments refers to what is described as an "engine room fire."
Princess Cruises and the Coral Princess are owned by cruise giant Carnival PLC.
Please leave a comment if you have information about the fire.
A newspaper in Egypt is reporting that a Nile river cruise ship burst into flames near the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan today. None of the 84 passengers or 79 crew member were reportedly injured.
The river cruise ship is the MS Nile Festival, which reportedly is operated by a UK based company. It A short-circuit in the ship's kitchen reportedly sparked the fire.
The tourists were visiting the temple of the ancient Egyptian site of Edfu when the fire occurred.
We have reported on other fires and catastrophes on river cruise ships in Egypt.
In January of this year, a cruise ship carrying 112 Egyptian passengers sank in the Nile River after striking large rocks. The incident took place near the Egyptian cities of Kom Ombo and Aswan. The sinking vessel was called the King of the Nile.
Lawsuits continue to be filed against Carnival arising out of the fire-disabled Triumph cruise ship.
Passengers were subjected to disgusting conditions due to overflowing toilets and a lack of air-conditioning. We made a decision not to be involved in any lawsuits against Carnival in this case. Yes, many people were inconvenienced but most sustained no physical injury and certainly nothing permanent. Read our article: Carnival Triumph Cruise From Hell: Here Come the Lawsuits!
Carnival offered a full discount, a future cruise credit, a waiver of charges for onboard purchases amd $500. Crew members received nothing.
A copy of the lawsuit is below. It should make for interesting reading to scroll through the lawsuit and see the particular complaints made by these 17 passengers who decided to file suit in federal court in Dallas Texas.
The Carnival passenger ticket requires that all disputes like this must be filed in federal court in Miami.
The media's microscope is focused on Carnival right now following the large number of recent engine and propulsion problems involving the Carnival Triumph, Dream, Elation & Legend and the Carnival-owner P&O Cruises' Ventura cruise ships.
The defenders of the cruise line are responding to the PR mess by insisting that such incidents are "rare." But you will find no historical perspective, and no reference to a data-base of any type.
Business Insider posted an article today: "A Photo History Of Carnival Cruise Ship Disasters." There were a couple of interesting photographs of the fire which erupted aboard the Carnival Ecstasy in 1998 as the cruise ship was trying to said out of Government Cut at Miami Beach. The two photos below, via Reuters, I have never seen before.
Carnival's passengers and crew members were extremely lucky in that incident. The ship's on-board system did not suppress the fire, which charred the entire stern of the ship. But the incident occurred near the port. Other vessels were able to quickly respond and eventually extinguish the fire. If the fire had occurred just an hour or two later on the high seas and away from the fire boats, the Ecstasy would have burned down to the hull.
I was disappointed that the article did not mention the deadly Star Princess cruise ship fire in 2006. This cruise ship was operated by Carnival-owned Princess Cruises. This fire is an important piece of evidence in the history of cruise ship fires. You can see some photographs in our article "Ten Years of Cruise Ship Fires - Has the Cruise Industry Learned Anything?"
Cruise lines do a great job keeping photographs and video of cruise ship fires away from the public.
Has anyone seen photos of the engine room of the Triumph, which is just the latest cruise ship to become disabled? Or the engine room of the Carnival Splendor? The Costa Allegra? Royal Caribbean's Azamara Quest?
Cruise lines prefer to keep the images out of public sight and then say that the fire was "small" and "quickly extinguished."
I'd like to see exactly what happened on the Triumph.
But the chances of the Bahamas Maritime Authority releasing photos seems somewhere between slim and none. No need for the Bahamas to embarrass its customer, Carnival, I suppose.
The only photo I am aware of involving the Triumph was released by the U.S. Coast Guard but it does not show much except the back of a Coast Guard representative in the engine room. Kinda of a PR shot for the Coast Guard, we-are-on-the-job-so-don't-worry kind of thing. Great, but how about a report and some friggin' photos for a change? We know the Bahamians won't release anything.
One crew member sent me the photo below of the Triumph after it was towed into Mobile and asked me not to mention his name.
But I believe that the soot on the stern shown in the photo was probably caused by smoke from the exhaust of the diesel engines of the tugs. You can also see where the tugs rubbed against the stern. I'm not 100% about this. If you have a thought, please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
So does anyone have photos of the engine room in the Triumph or, for that matter, the Splendor, the Allegra or the Quest?
The fire on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship is being investigated by the Bahamas because Carnival elected to register the Triumph in that country to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and safety laws. As the "flag state" for the Triumph, the Bahamas is charged with the responsibility of investigating fires, casualties and crimes on that ship. The Bahamas requested the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard as well as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The questions arise will the Bahamas really conduct an objective and honest investigation? Will it ever release a copy of the final report into the investigation into the fire? And if so, when?
In considering these questions, remember that in the last disabling fire on a Carnival cruise ship several years ago, the public has still not seen the report of the flag state. In November 2010, the Carnival Splendor caught on fire and was disabled. Because Carnival flagged the Splendor in Panama, Panama was responsible for the official investigation. Panama called upon the U.S. Coast Guard to assist it. The Coast Guard finished its reports to the officials in Panama long ago.
The Coast Guard quickly sent out "marine safety alerts" about the design defects and construction and maintenance shortcomings in the Splendor engine room. Remarkably, the Coast Guard did not even identify the Splendor in its alerts.
It's now going on two and one-half years later but Panama still has not released a report.
Will Panama ever release the report? Not if Carnival doesn't want it to.
Who has authority to force Panama or the Bahamas to release a report or punish them if they refuseto do so? No one. There is no U.S. federal oversight organization. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is toothless. A former NTSB chairman called the IMO a "paper tiger." This is exactly how the cruise lines want the system to work.
Two years ago, Disney youth counselor Rebecca Coriam disappeared from the Disney Wonder cruise ship. The Bahamas was responsible for investigating the disappearance because Disney registered the Wonder in Nassau to avoid U.S. taxes, labor and safety laws.
The Bahamas sent a lone policeman to Los Angeles to meet the cruise ship when it returned to port. He conducted a short visit on the ship and concluded his report long ago. But the Bahamas refuses to send Rebecca's mother and father a copy of the report.
After the Triumph was towed to Mobile, a newspaper article appeared in a Bahamian newspaper that the Bahamas was sending detectives to the U.S. to investigate a sexual assault on the Triumph. The Bahamas denied that the ship where the rape was alleged was the Triumph. It disclosed only that a Bahamian flagged ship was involved. The Bahamas promised to provide information once its detectives returned from the U.S. Of course, it has released nothing.
If your child vanishes on the high seas, or you are raped during a cruise, or your family flounders for a week on a stinky fire-stricken ship, flag states like the Bahamas and Panama don't believe that they have any obligation to release any information to you. Their alliances are with the cruise lines which fly their flags. Companies like Carnival and Disney hide behind the foreign flags and are complicit in the conspiracy to deceive the public.
It's a dishonest, secretive, rotten system. Its a system designed to conceal the truth and to avoid the foreign flagged cruise lines from embarrassment.
On February 10th the Carnival Triumph's engine room caught fire fire and was quickly extinguished. No one was burned. No one choked and gasped for air. No one died. No family members mourned the loss of their loved ones or buried their dead.
Three weeks later there is a litigation frenzy with lawyers from New York to Miami to Mississippi suing Carnival for billions of dollars.
But suing Carnival if you are not physically injured or seriously sick is wrong, as I have said in other articles.
There are a hoard of lawyers out there soliciting your business who will sue Carnival whether you have bothered to see a doctor or not. Just Google "Triumph cruise lawyer" and see the long line of lawyers asking you to call them, such as:
What are these attorneys advocating? None of these lawyers have ever gone to Congress advocating the rights of cruise passengers or crew members injured at sea. Is this just about money?
Contrast this latest Carnival fire on the Triumph with the last fire where a passenger was killed on the Carnival-owned Star Princess cruise ship (above right). Georgia resident Richard Liffridge died when he and his wife, Vicky, tried to crawl down a burning smoke filled hallway as the fire engulfed the ship.
"Victoria Liffridge recalled that she and her husband crawled along a passageway filled with thick, black smoke as flames shot above their heads. It was "like being in an oven," she said. The couple became separated. 'The last words I heard him say were, "Vicky, don't let me die, she said. Victoria Liffridge crawled to safety, only to be told later that her husband had not survived. When she identified his body it was covered in soot from head to toe."
Mr. Liffridge left behind his wife, four children and many grandchildren.
We represented the Liffridge family. Richard's daughter, Lynnette, joined the International Cruise Victims organization and testified before Congress regarding the cruise ship fire. She demanded changes to protect future cruisers. She later boarded the same cruise ship where her father died and made certain that the ship was retrofitted with sprinkler systems and heat detectors which were lacking from the ship's balconies where the fire started which killed her father.
Will anyone of the inconvenienced passengers on the Triumph call on their Congressional representatives and ask for a Congressional hearing about cruise ship safety like Lynnette did? Will anyone travel to Washington D.C. at their own expense to hold the cruise lines accountable? Will anyone demand changes on the cruise ships to protect the public? Will anyone work behind the scenes and board the Triumph and see with-their-own-eyes if anything has been done to ensure the safety of the next families who will cruise on the ship?
Or is this just a lawsuit money-grab for a few thousand dollars and a free Carnival cruise?
Last Friday, the day the Carnival Triumph passengers were finally going home from the "cruise from hell," the first two lawsuits were filed.
The first case mentioned in the press was filed by a Texas lawyer representing a woman from Brazoria County Texas. I printed a copy from the court's online docket to read this weekend. The lawsuit alleges that the passenger was forced to "endure unbearable and horrendous odors on the filthy and disabled" cruise ship. Because of the "sweltering temperatures, lack of power and air conditioning, lack of running water, and lack of toilets," the woman "feared for her life" and was threatened with "contracting serious illness by the raw sewage" filling the ship.
The problem with allegations like these is that they are excluded by the terms and conditions of the ticket issued by the cruise line.
Experiencing psychological distress or being afraid of getting sick are not a basis for a lawsuit unless there is a physical injury or actual physical illness.
The lady's lawyer later told the press that his client had a fever and felt nauseous, but notably lacking from the lawsuit or the lawyer's comments were any mention of an actual illness diagnosed by a doctor. This may be explained by the fact that the woman probably had not been to a doctor yet.
The other lawsuit was filed on behalf of another Texan passenger by a lawyer here in Miami. As described by USA Today's Cruise Log, the lawsuit alleges that the 42 year old passenger suffered severe dehydration and bruising from aggressive food lines on the crippled ship. Her lawyer said she was so ill from the five-day ordeal that she had to be given intravenous fluids in an emergency room when she returned home to Houston. Severe dehydration may be sufficient to meet the physical injury requirements of the law but it is unknown whether this is just a temporary injury.
I have made my thoughts of litigation in cases like this well know.
Following the last "cruise from hell" engine room fire disaster in 2010 when the Carnival Splendor was stranded off the coast of Mexico and had to be towed back to the U.S., I wrote an article "Three Reasons Why You Will Lose If You Sue Carnival." The same conclusions I reached two years ago apply to this latest Carnival debacle.
It's not that I am unsympathetic to the people's plight. But I have represented clients who waved goodbye to family members at the dock and their loved ones either didn't return from the cruise or they returned in a body bag.
If you are on a cruise ship that catches on fire on the high seas and you return with your family physically uninjured, count your blessings.
Cruise passengers returning from the Triumph need to rest, relax and start trying to recover from the stress. They should go to a doctor and be checked out. Get your blood tested if you are afraid. Send the medical bills to Carnival to Carnival to be reimbursed. But filing a lawsuit before going to a doctor puts the cart ahead of the horse.
Let's hope that no one develops a truly serious and permanent illness from sloshing around in sewage for a week. If the feces and urine cause an innocent passenger to contract hepatitis or Legionnaires Disease or some other debilitating or deadly illness, then the afflicted passenger should sue the hell out of Carnival.
But inconvenience, aggravation, anger and being afraid of disease won't get you very far in a federal courtroom here in Miami.
The long tortuous tow back to Mobile ended last night with smiles of relief on the faces of the over-3,000-passengers as they straggled off the stinking stricken Triumph. It was a happy sight to me. Yes, there were people still upset, understandably so, but the sentiment seems to be that they had all encountered a surreal experienced and had survived.
Cruise ship fires do not always turn out this well. I have represented clients who waved goodbye to their loved one as they boarded a cruise ship only to return in a body bag.
Yesterday I was asked a dozen times during interviews about the rights of passengers when things like this happen on the high seas.
The cruise lines have drafted terms and conditions in the cruise passenger tickets (considered by the courts to be the legal, binding contract) to protect themselves in virtually every imaginable circumstance. Unless a passenger is physically injured or become physically ill (say due to the unsanitary conditions of sewage on the ship), they have virtually no rights at all.
The good news is that It appears that there were no injuries due to the fire. There very well may be no serious medical illnesses notwithstanding the seriously disgusting circumstances aboard the ship.
Today CNN asked me to write an opinion piece regarding the state of affairs of the cruise industry following the fire aboard the Carnival Triumph. CNN permits only the first 150 words of the article to be published so here you go:
Editor's note: James M. Walker is a maritime lawyer and cruise safety advocate involved in cruise ship law and maritime litigation with his law firm, Walker and O'Neill. He has represented crew members and passengers against cruise lines, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Formerly, he worked as a lawyer for the cruise industry.
(CNN) -- A Carnival cruise ship was adrift 150 miles off the coast of Mexico after an engine room fire. Cruise passengers were complaining about the lack of air conditioning, hot cabins, cold food and toilets that wouldn't flush.
As I watched the news broadcast, I thought it was a documentary about the Carnival Splendor, which suffered a disabling engine room fire in November 2010 off Mexico. But the story was about the Carnival Triumph, which caught fire early Sunday after sailing from Galveston, Texas, with more than 3,100 passengers.
The cruise industry says cruise ship fires are rare, but they are not rare. They happen with alarming frequency . . .
At this moment the 210 foot Coast Guard cutter Vigorous is escorting the disabled Carnival Triumph back to the U.S. The Coast Guard performs a remarkable job responding to emergencies such as cruise ship fires and the numerous helicopter medevacs involving ill or injured passengers who need medical treatment back here in the U.S.
But who pays for these services?
Cruise lines have no obligation to pay the Coast Guard or other U.S. federal agencies for services like this. Most people don't know this. Many people also don't realize that the cruise industry pays no U.S. federal taxes because companies like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are registered in foreign countries like Panama and Liberia and fly the flag of countries like the Bahamas. The industry collects around $35 billion a year, mostly from tax-paying U.S. citizens. But unlike you or me, the cruise lines are essentially exempt from paying the U.S. government anything on all of the billions and billions it collects each month.
So when it comes to paying for a Coast Guard escort of a foreign flagged ship back to an American port, you pay. That's right. Joe the plumber pays. Even though the cruise lines pay no federal taxes and you do, you pay. Even when the cruise ship fire occurs due to the negligence of the cruise line, you pay.
Remember the last cruise engine fire which disabled the Carnival Splendor in November 2010? The U.S. sent out an aircraft carrier (U.S. Ronald Reagan) and various U.S. Coast Guard vessels. You paid for all of that too.
The CEO of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization Ken Carver, requested information from the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request. The U.S. Navy timely responded to Mr. Carver's FOIA request. The Navy disclosed that it delivered 60 pallets, weighing over 37,000 pounds, of "bread, luncheon meat, pop tarts, canned crab, water and paper plates."
Considering the cost of positioning an aircraft carrier, dispatching multiple aircraft and helicopters, and delivering tons of food and water to be dropped onto the cruise ship, the Navy stated that it spent $1,884,376.75 responding to the fire aboard the Carnival Splendor cruise ship.
This figure does not include the costs incurred by the U.S. Coast Guard in responding to the crisis. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard has not yet provided any information in response to Mr. Carver's FOIA request dating back to earlier last year.
The Coast Guard's costs were undoubtedly another $2,000,000 or so in personnel and fuel costs for their vessels and helicopters.
So here we are again with another foreign-flagged cruise ship disabled due to fire, operated by a foreign incorporated cruise line which pays no U.S. income taxes calling on good ole Uncle Sam to spend a few million dollars to bail it out.
Its time to re-examine why these cruise lines collect billions but pay no taxes and why you and me have to pay when their cruise ships catch on fire on the high seas and they call on U.S federal agencies for help.
Yesterday all of the major news stations were airing updates on the latest Carnival cruise ship fire. "Cruise from hell, "nightmare cruise" and so forth were the headlines.
It was like deja vu hearing the stories of loss of power, no air conditioning, hot cabins, cold food and toilets on the Triumph that did not work.
ABC aired a rather sensational program yesterday, with images of the disabled ship bobbing like a big cork in the water, passengers literally crying that they want to go home, and accusations by other passengers that Carnival risked innocent lives by ignoring prior engine problems.
It may seem like the end of the world to many passengers on the entirely unpleasant cruise ship as well as to the concerned families back home. If the fire had spread, it might have been the end for the passengers. But It seems that most people have forgotten about an identical engine room fire which disabled the Carnival Splendor cruise ship back in November 2010. After everyone received a full reimbursement of the fare and flight expenses, it seemed like everyone forgot about the cruise from hell.
There was no Congressional investigation and no calls for a fleet wide inspection of the engines on Carnival's ships.
Will this latest Carnival cruise fire be as easily forgotten?
I posted images of the ABC special here. Click on each photo for a larger image and the captions.
You can read our initial article about the fire here, and our article about prior engine problems on the Triumphhere.
When the news broke that the Carnival Triumph's engines failed due to a fire while the cruise ship was 150 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, passengers on prior cruises quickly began voicing their concerns about propulsion problems on prior cruises.
Other websites, such as the popular Maritime Matters, posted numerous comments from concerned cruisers about prior engine problems on the Triumph.
There were also a number news stations which aired stories about persistent problems about this Carnival cruise ship. KLTV aired a program Texans Angry Over Cruise Experience (video) where one Carnival passenger complained about the cruise line's decision to "put money ahead of safety."
The problem in cases like this is that the cruise lines operate their ships virtually 24 hours a days, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. The ships have a tight itinerary, rushing from port to port, and then disembarking several thousand passengers and re-loading the ship to head out again. Down time for a few days for maintenance means many millions of dollars lost and lots of unhappy customers. So the ships (as well as the crew) are pushed to and sometimes past their limits.
"Money Talks - It is sad to hear that the news is now surfacing that prior to this ill-fated cruise that there were issues on recent previous cruises, which will cause a lot of backlash against the company. If an enquiry is launched it could mean trouble for Carnival. I just want to mention that crew onboard are mostly tip driven and senior officers are incentivised on revenue, so the motivation to ensure the cruise happens is pretty high from a crew and officer point of view. If the ship could not leave port it would mean that not only does the company lose revenue, the crew would be put at a disadvantage financially as well."
So where are the reassuring words from the cruise industry's leadership? Where's the don't-worry-cruise-fans these are just rare mishaps in the remarkably safe world of cruising?
So far no word from the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), which now seemingly has every cruise line in the world as a member. Nothing either from CLIA's CEO Christine Duffy. Does CLIA and its CEO work on weekends when the lifeboats and passengers are falling and the ships catch fire?
I suppose all of this must be embarrassing to the marketing and public relations people at CLIA. After the Concordia disaster, CLIA announced 10 new safety proposals with great fanfare. One of them had to do with lowering lifeboats with only a few essential crewmembers aboard to avoid unnecessary injuries and deaths. But it seems that this was just a proposal which the cruise lines could ignore. Why were 8 men sitting like guinea pigs in the lifeboat as it is winched up to the 22 year old ship when the cable snapped?
So how does CLIA handle this mess? It seems like CLIA is about as responsive to the disastrous week in cruising as Captain Schettino was in responding to his sinking ship. Its hide-under-the-bed PR.
Eventually the executives at Carnival and Royal Caribbean making tens of millions a year will send some talking points over to CLIA. Then we will hear talk about the remarkable safety record of the cruise industry. Maybe CLIA will announce a Blue Ribbon Lifeboat or Fire Safety Task Force or something equally obtuse but official sounding.
Meanwhile eight families are mourning their dead loved ones and a boatload of families stuck on the disabled Triumph are being towed back to Mexico.
This morning, the Carnival Triumph lost propulsion in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine room fire disabled its main engines. The cruise ship’s fire suppression system kept the fire from spreading.
No injuries have been disclosed. Carnival says that all guests will receive a full refund and transportation expenses.
The next cruise scheduled is for tomorrow, February 11th. Passengers have been told that the cruise will not depart and they can cancel and receive a full refund or wait and see if the ship will sail later on a shortened cruise.
News sources say that the fire broke out while the cruise ship was sailing about 150 miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, after sailing from Galveston on February 7th.
The ship's generator power is working but the cruise ship has no propulsion to return to port in Galveston. Some news sources are saying that tugs were deployed.
I noticed that it was by Jane Wooldridge who many of you know as the business editor of the Miami Herald. I have been critical of the Miami Herald and its reporters who, like Ms. Wooldridge, are careful not to criticize the Miami-based cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean which contribute substantially to their newspaper's advertising revenues.
Actually the tweet did not refer to an article in the Herald at all. Instead it linked to an article in Travel + Leisure where Ms. Wooldridge answers her own question by assuring us that cruise ships accidents resulting in death are "very rare" and that the Concordia shipwreck was an "anomaly." These are exactly the talking points that the cruise industry sent to its friends in the travel industry immediately after the Concordia hit the rocks a year ago.
Ms. Wooldridge goes so far as to suggest that the recent safety proposals of having safety drills before cruising, keeping strangers out of the bridge and other long overdue basic practices may "eliminate such incidents altogether."
Now I am accustomed to delusional puff pieces like this from travel publication editors (Mr. Woolridge is also editor of Travel + Leisure). The most notorious pro-cruise puff pieces come from cruise cheerleader Carolyn Spencer-Brown, who is editor of the Expedia/Travel Advisor owned Cruise Critic publication. She loves to say that cruising is "absolutely safe."
Cruise lines also have a major problem with crimes committed by employees and drunk passengers against women and children. The chance of being raped on a cruise is twice that of being raped ashore. Airlines, railroads and buses simply do not have these types of problems.
Do you really think that public relations inspired proposals promoted in a travel magazine will prevent the next deadly cruise ship collision or shipboard fire? Do you think that the new rules will protect your little girl from a pedophile male cabin attendant with a key card to your cabin?
If you want sunshine blown up your caboose, then rely on Ms. Wooldridge or Ms. Spencer-Brown for an answer to the question "is cruising is safe?" I guarantee that you will receive no real facts but lots of wonderful adjectives that accidents are "rare" and cruising is "absolutely" safe.
But if you want facts upon which base your own conclusions, check around for information from sources like Sociology Professor Ross Klein's informative website, or check out the website of the non-profit International Cruise Victims, or read some of our articles about cruise ship accidents, deaths, sexual assault of women and molestation of children which the cruise lines and travel writers would prefer you not know.
Since 2005 I have been to seven Congressional hearings regarding cruise ship safety, including the last two hearings following the Costa Concordia disaster (photo above right). A half-dozen of my clients testified about the issue of whether cruise ships are safe.
I have not seen Ms. Wooldridge or Ms. Spencer-Brown at any of the hearings.
The U.S. Coast Guard issued a press release today stating that an eighty foot yacht caught fire off of Miami Beach this morning.
The incident occurred around 10 a.m. today. The 110-foot Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak was in the process of boarding a vessel when the 80-foot motor yacht Bliss caught on fire before the boarding commended. It is less than clear whether the Coast Guard was boarding the Bliss or some other vessel.
Three people aboard the yacht were forced to jump into the water and were picked up by the Coast Guard cutter.
The Coast Guard and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue vessels responded and extinguished the fire but not before the Bliss sank. The yacht remains partially submerged, and must now be salvaged and towed back to shore.
The fire produced a huge smoke plume which could easily be seen from shore.
An oil platform with 26 workers aboard exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion resulted in the death of at least two men with two additional men missing. Eleven workers were reportedly taken to the hospital, some of whom are in critical condition.
The explosion involved an oil platform, operated by Houston-based Black Elk Energy company, located approximately 20 miles south of Grand Isle Louisiana.
This explosion comes at a time when oil giant BP just reached a plea settlement (on Wednesday), accepting guilt in the deaths of 11 oil workers and agreeing to pay $4,500,000,000 in penalties, following a catastrophic explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010, leading to one of the U.S.'s worst environmental disasters.
Although many news account refer to the Black Elk platform as a "rig," the explosion did not involve a drilling rig like the infamous Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. This incident involves a fixed production platform.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that between 2001 and 2010, the U.S. government documented 69 offshore deaths, 1,349 injuries and 858 fires and explosions on offshore rigs situated in the Gulf of Mexico. These type of accidents often fall within maritime jurisdiction and involves issues of law pertaining to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the law of Louisiana, and the General Maritime Law.
Black Elk has not issued a statement yet, and the Coast Guard is still gathering initial data, including an exact number of those injured, killed, or missing.
A small cruise ship in Turkish waters, transporting 100 passengers, burned to its hull after a fire ravaged the ship today while cruising off Turkey's Aegean coast.
The Didim Mavisi, which cruises the Aegean islands,experienced a fire shortly after departing from the Aegean district of Ayvalık today.
The fire reportedly broke out in the cruise ship's galley as the ship cruised near the coast of Sarımsaklı. According to the Anatolia News Agency, the fire quickly spread as the captain directed the vessel to a nearby cove.
All passengers and crew were safely evacuated as other boats came to the distressed vessel's aid. Some passengers jumped from the deck and swam ashore.
The Maritime Bulletin reports that a fire occurred on the Crown Princess cruise ship on July 14 2012 in one of the cabins.
The Princess cruise ship was some 3 miles east of Antipaxos island in the Ionian Sea and was sailing from Corfu to Piraeus with 3325 passengers on board when the alarm went off. The fire was extinguished automatically by a sprinkling system causing minor property damaged. Nobody was injured. Katakolo port authorities boarded the vessel for survey and investigation, and the cruise ship was cleared to resume its voyage.
July 17, 2012 Update:
Following our article this morning, Cruise Critic ran the following:
"A small electrical fire broke out in passenger cabin on Crown Princess Saturday evening, the line has confirmed.
'There were no injuries and we're currently investigating the cause,' Princess said in a statement sent to Cruise Critic. The ship, carrying 2,948 passengers on a 12-day Eastern Mediterranean cruise, is sailing on schedule. The voyage ends in Rome on July 23.
Cruise Critic member MSH from Norway, who was onboard, posted that the fire occurred on the Emerald Deck (Deck 8) and that several cabins filled with smoke. Some cabins were also waterlogged MSH from Norway wrote.
While Princess did not comment on the damage to the ship, the line did tell Cruise Critic that the passengers in the affected cabin, as well as those in the cabin next to it, were moved -- both cabins were left without electricity."
Newspapers in Germany are reporting that a fire broke put on a river cruise ship with 134 people on board this morning. The ship is the Dutch-owned Regina Rheni. The ship was mostly filled with British tourists.
The fire quickly spread and forced the passengers to the top deck. The newspaper accounts indicate that the 102 passengers and 32 crew members were in "grave danger." There are inconsistent reports of injury. Around a dozen passengers suffered smoke inhalation and four were hospitalized. The cause of the fire is still unclear.
The passengers were mostly elderly.
It took three hours to extinguish the fire.
A month ago, a fire erupted aboard another river cruise ship, the MS Gerard Schmitter, while it was sailing from Amsterdam to Strasborg, requiring a similar evacuation.
Photo credit: Welt Online
Please note that the photograph above is not of the river cruise ship (the Regina Rheni) which caught fire. Rather it is a photo of another river cruise ship, Tauck's MS Swiss Sapphire, which was in the vicinity of the Regina Rheni and came to its aid. The Regina Rheni's passengers were evacuated to the Tauk vessel, where the crew provided them with food, blankets and warm drinks. The MS Swiss Sapphire then transported the passengers to Dusseldorf, where they disembarked and were met by authorities who provided additional aid.
The MS Swiss Sapphire continued on the rest of its journey, and is now back on its regular schedule.
The cruise industry's trade group, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), announced two new safety initiatives last week. I was rather amazed when I read what the new proposals involved.
The first policy is what is being called the "Nationality of Passengers" policy. This policy states that each passenger's nationality should be documented for use by search and rescue personnel in case of an emergency evacuation.
It surprises me that cruise lines don't already do this. Airlines have kept such international manifests with passenger nationalities listed for decades.
CLIA claims that this is an effort to enhance passenger safety on board cruise liners. I'm not sure how listing passenger's nationalities leads to safety at all. Perhaps the information helps to identify the dead after disaster strikes.
A second safety procedure touted by CLIA is a list set of 12 "universal" instructions that should be given to passengers at muster drills. These include the most basis instructions to passengers to prepare them for an abandon ship situation after a cruise ship fire or collision.
Cruise Critic summarized these instructions in a recent article as follows:
When and how to don a lifejacket;
Description of emergency signals and appropriate responses in the event of an emergency;
Location of lifejackets;
Where to muster when the emergency signal is sounded;
Method of accounting for passenger attendance at musters both for training and in the event of an actual emergency;
How information will be provided in an emergency;
What to expect if the Captain orders an evacuation of the ship;
What additional safety information is available;
Instructions on whether passengers should return to cabins prior to mustering, including specifics regarding medication, clothing and lifejackets;
Description of key safety systems and features;
Emergency routing systems and recognizing emergency exits; and
Who to seek out for additional information.
When I first read this proposal, I couldn't believe that the cruise industry didn't already have an established set of muster station / life vest / life boat instructions. It's 2012, over 100 years since the Titanic sank! No wonder there was such deadly confusion on the Concordia.
You may recall that back in April, CLIA announced some other new proposals including limiting visits to the bridge during cruises. I called this the "no bimbos in the bridge" policy because Captain Schettino's girlfriend was reportedly in the bridge after the Concordia hit the rocks.
Is this an industry so far behind the times that it is only now recommending standard muster drill instructions, listing passenger nationalities, and keeping the captain's girlfriends out of the bridge during disasters?
Travel Agent Central reports a hour ago about what appears to be a small fire which broke out aboard Carnival's new cruise ship, the Carnival Breeze.
The publication states that shortly 2 PM (ship time), crew members from the "Alpha" fire team were summoned via the ship's public address system to a forward portion of the crew area on Deck O where smoke was accumulating. Fire doors in the forward section of the ship closed as well.
The ship's Master, Captain Vincenzo Alcaras, reportedly announced over the PA system the fire team arrived and observed the electrical system smoking. The team "extinguished it immediately" and the "ship is now continuing on as normal" to Dubrovnik. The article didn't contain much of an explanation regarding the cause of the fire.
Cruise director, John Heald, himself a cruise celebrity blogger, also apparently spoke to the passengers in an effort to keep them calm.
It will be interesting to learn how a new ship would experience a fire, big or small, so soon.
Carnival public relations representatives tweeted 30 minutes after the fire but made no mention of the incident. Instead, @CarnivalPR tweeted a link to a promotional article on USA Today's Cruise Log "A new look for industry leader Carnival Cruise? We're reporting live from the cruise line's new Carnival Breeze."
Too bad that @CarnivalPR didn't bother to tweet about the fire on its new ship.
June 20, 2012 Update:
Some other cruise media people on the cruise mentioned a small fire,such as @ExpertCruiser: "Small electrical fire on #CarnivalBreeze extinguished. Captain made announcement that everything is under control. Good job by crew."
Where there's smoke, there's no fire?
Carnival Public Relations has stated that there was no fire, only smoke in the crew quarters due to overheated fan belt in an air conditioning unit. Here is the Carnival statement:
"A fan belt inside an AC unit in a crew area overheated and started generating smoke. There was not an actual fire and no smoke entered guest areas. The ship's crew responded immediately and all is well. The Carnival Breeze is continuing on its voyage as normal."
Thanks Carnival for clarifying matters . . .
My friend has a blog - Mikey's Cruise Blog which contains a quote from cruise director Heald:
"It is a beautiful day here at sea. Blue skies, calm seas spoiled only by a burning smell on deck 0 ( crew deck ) forward that had alarms sounding, alpha team calls ( fire investigation) and my fat arse running up 6 flights of stairs to the bridge. All is well, there was an electrical fan belt which had produced the smell and there was no fire or smoke but a strong burning smell on the crew deck forward. So, 10 minutes later I let the guests know what had happened as I insist on always letting them know and especially as we had paged the fire teams over the PA system. Anyway, the ship is continuing on her way to Dubrovnik at full speed with all systems as normal, the guests are calm and having fun, the smell of smoke has dissapissatated (spelt correctly) and I now have to dispose of one ruined pair of Carnival Splendor flashback underpants."
Newspapers in Germany are reporting that a fire erupted yesterday aboard the MS Gerard Schmitter river cruise ship while it was sailing from Amsterdam to Strasborg, France.
The cruise ship was approaching Krefeld, Germany when the fire broke out and produced heavy smoke. Fortunately, the cruise ship was preparing to berth at a dock in Krefeld when the fire started. The city fire's department responded and extinguished the fire.
154 passengers and 34 crew members were evacuated ashore. One passenger and one crewmember required medical treatment.
The fire was apparently caused by an electrical failure.
The river cruise ship is operated by CroisiEurope.
SeaTrade reports that the Gerard Schmitter was christened on April 10, 2012 and has been in service for a little over two months. The vessel was named after the founder of CroisiEurope, Gerard Schmitter, who died in February.
Yesterday was one of the stranger days in the weird world of cruising.
Royal Caribbean reported a 40% drop in net income for the first quarter of this year. Its net income was $47 million, down from $78.4 million a year earlier. Royal Caribbean's CEO Richard Fain attributed the decline in net income on the Costa Concordia tragedy but said that he doesn't think that the effects of the Concordia disaster would be long term. "We did not expect the impact of the tragedy to be long term and we are seeing evidence the effects are waning.”
This last week, the cruise industry has been rocked with the Star Princess scandal, when the Princess cruise ship sailed happily by a disabled little fishing boat drifting 100 miles off coast of Panama. World opinion came crashing down on Princess Cruises (also owned by Carnival) when the public learned that 2 of the young men (one just 16) died due to Princess' nonchalant attitude while several passengers pleaded for the cruise ship to assist the stricken boat.
Speaking of outrageous conduct, this month started out with news that a Carnival security officer and housekeeping manager (both male) were involved in the strip searching of a girl on the Carnival Sensation which included allegedly making her remove her tampon while they watched.
While Fain was quick to point blame his company's sinking profits on his competitor (Carnival), he didn't mention that one of his cruise ships, the Azamara Quest, suffered an serious engine fire which disabled the vessel last month. He also didn't mention that he still pocketed $5,900,000. Poor bastard. How can he survive on that?
But seriously, lets think about this for a moment. One of Fain's ships caught fire last month and he still makes around $6,000,000 with declining bookings and increased fuel and operating costs while a cruise disaster happens every other week it seems. Royal Caribbean pays its waiters only $600 a year working over 12 hours a day. So Fain still makes 10,000 times more than he pays a waiter to serve your family.
CBS indicated that the declining profits at Royal Caribbean were because passengers may be "spooked by the high profile cruise problems."
Later that evening (last night) an engine room fire broke out on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Sea. Cruise Law News was the first to report on the cruise ship fire yesterday. This is the 80th cruise fire in the last 22 years. The Miami Herald, which is a supporter of the cruise industry and rarely covers negative cruise news, passed along the cruise line's PR statement that the fire was "small and quickly extinguished." Why does that not make me feel any safer?
The Allure is the largest cruise ship in the world with 7,500 passengers and crew. All fires start small. Its a bad thing for a small fire to break out on the world's largest cruise ship in the middle of the sea. Like the Carnival Splendor which recently suffering an engine room fire, the Allure is a new ship. Why are new ships catching on fire? Most cruise fans could care less. The most important thing to them seems to be whether the fire will disrupt their cruise next week.
The Miami Herald chose not to report on a blockbuster story which we reported on yesterday. A Cunard cruise line youth counselor under arrest admitted that he sexually abused 13 boys on three Cunard cruise ships which he worked on (Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth) over the course of four years. A prolific child sexual predator running amok on the cream of the cream luxury Cunard brand of cruise ships for four years. The sick pervert also videotaped himself abusing the children on the cruise ships, either for his viewing pleasure later or perhaps for trading with other pedophiles.
If there is a sexual predator on Cunard ships, do you think that there are no perverts taking your child into a bathroom alone on Royal Caribbean and Carnival brands? Wait a second, Cunard is owned by Carnival here in Miami. Why wouldn't the Miami Herald report on 13 little boys being diddled on one of the Carnival brands? You think that your kids are safer on a Carnival fun ship running out of Galveston than a Cunard ship sailing from Southampton?
I shouldn't be so hard on the Miami Herald. It sold out on any type of investigative journalism a decade ago, and it was not the only newspaper not to report on the cruise line sexual pervert. Not one other media outlet in the U.S. covered the story. Only Cruise Law News did. Major newspapers alternate between being cheerleaders for the cruise lines to being indifferent to something as shocking as 13 little kids targeted and preyed on by a cruise ship employee whose parents entrusted their kids literally into his filthy hands.
What is going on?
Cruise executives make 10,000 times more than a waiter who works 360 hours a month, and can still rake in $6,000,000 in the worst economy while cruise ships sink, collide and burn around them. Luxury cruise liners like the love boats of Princess look the other way while people are dying at sea. Newspapers rush out the cruise line's talking points of a supposedly "small and short" fire, but refuse to mention 13 child abused on the most prestigious cruise ships sailing today. A strip search of a girl on the Carnival "fun ships?"
Tonight I began to receive text messages from passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas stating that a fire broke out in the engine room. Heavy black smoke billowed out of the stacks. There was initial panic by some passengers. The cruise ship made emergency announcement and altered its course so that the prevailing winds would not blow smoke into the ship.
There are no reports of injuries to passengers at this time. The Allure is continuing its cruise and there apparently remains propulsion, electricity, lights, and air conditioning. The ship is heading from St. Maarten back to Fort Lauderdale, and is somewhere east of Turks and Caicos.
We do not have a statement from the cruise line at this time.
If you are on the cruise and have info, photos or video, please leave a message.
Update April 20, 2012: Several readers pointed out that my reference to and photos on the webcam were dated April 19, 2012 (yesterday). The webcam is not active now. I deleted the image. Sorry for the misleading reference to normal events yesterday - but why is the webcam not showing what's going on tonight? I suspect the cruise line shuts the web cams down during emergencies.
Update April 21, 2012: Here is the official cruise line PR statement:
"At approximately 7:45 pm (ET) Royal Caribbean International's Allure of the Seas experienced a small and short lived engine fire. The ship's high fog system was immediately activated, which contained and extinguished the fire. There were no injuries to guest or crew. The ship is sailing towards Port Everglades, Florida, where it will arrive on Sunday, April 22 as scheduled."
Royal Caribbean wrote a masterful PR statement. "Small" fire which lasted "short" time and was "immediately" extinguished. But let's have some real information? What caused the fire? Why did a new ship touted as having new generation technology catch on fire in the first place? All fires start out "small." A small fire on a huge ship in the middle of the sea is not a good thing. The 2006 fire aboard the Star Princess started out with a single cigarette smoldering in a towel and then barely erupting, yet it led to 100 cabins being destroyed, one death and multiple injuries.
Did An Explosion Occur Before the Fire on the Allure of the Seas?
We have received some inquiries asking whether an explosion took place in the engine room before the fire broke out. Does anyone have any information about this claim? It was mentioned that: "This morning it was reported on the Swedish shipping forum Landgangen that Royal Caribbean's ALLURE OF THE SEAS experienced an engine explosion/failure last night. According to a Swede who is currently on board, first a loud bang was heard, followed a few minutes later by a tremendous shaking sensation throughout the ship." Can anyone aboard verify this?
The Vessel Tracker web site contains a comment that there was a "bang" that preceded the fire and that the vcruise ship drifted between one and two hours before continuing back to South Florida:
"Passengers of the 'Allure of the Seas' were alerted by a bang on 7.45 p.m. on Apr 20, 2012, followed by development of smoke. Soon afterwards fire instructions were given to the crew. Shortly thereafter the captain informed the passengers that there had been an incident in the engine and that all watertight bulkheads had been closed. The entire section 6, apparently the section that includes Viking Crown Lounge, was evacuated. Some passengers on board were shocked, however, no one was injured. The ship drifted between one and two hours before continuing with the only one functioning machine left after the small and short-lived engine fire was extinguished by using the ship's high fog system which had been immediately activated to contain the fire."
Did the cruise ship really drift for this long? This could have been very serious if the explosion and fire occurred during a storm.
Update April 22, 2012: Some passengers disembarking the Allure today (see comments below) state that there certainly was an explosion in the engine room, initial panic and less than optimal communications. One passenger commented that Royal Caribbean was down-playing what happened. I am sure that other passengers will leave comments as they are now off of the cruise ship and will be describing what they observed from their home computers.
A reader brought to my attention that there is an interesting thread of comments on the cruise critic message board by passengers who disembarked, including this one:
"Just got off the Allure and I have to disagree that there was NO panic. The crew were visibly scared as we're many of the passengers. Our cabin steward told us that our hallway had many families in tears and begging for life jackets. We were in the main dining room for our lobster dinner and when you feel a 225000 ton ship shake like that you know something big just happened. The crew were trying very hard to appear in control and they did a good job, but you could seem them passing notes to each other and the concern on their faces. We were finished our dinner, but skipped out on desert because I really couldn't eat much after hearing Bravo bravo bravo and water tight doors closing. We saw many in tears and I felt the need to get my kids away from that and the ridiculous people that laughingly and loudly started talking about the titanic and going down with the ship. We strolled the the Royal Promenade and tried to appear normal for the kids. Communication was good and they did a great job of handling things quickly, but there were lots feeling very unsettled. Very glad it ended quickly."
Another passenger said there were "nervous" people but no panic. The passenger also commented: " . . . no power from the engines as it appeared we were drifting - this occurred for at least an hour maybe two . . . "
It will be interesting to hear what other passengers observed . . . anyone have photos or videos of initial reaction of passengers and crew? . . . Please leave a comment below:
Norwegian Broadcasting reports that the cruise-ferry Stena Saga, which operates between Oslo and Fredrikshavn in Denmark, was hit by an explosion in its engine room over the Easter weekend. The explosion sparked a fire.
A newspaper in Norway reports that "alarmed residents south of Drøbak called emergency services when they saw smoke billowing from the ship and noted that it was off course in the sound leading into the inner Oslo Fjord."
A Stena Line spokesman confirmed that the explosion created a lot of smoke but claimed it was contained by the vessel’s sprinkling system in the engine room. The vessel drifted for a brief period but was able to continue sailing towards Oslo, where it arrived around 30 minutes late.
1,392 passengers and a crew of 180 were on on board at the time of the explosion and fire, although no evacuation took place.
A cruise line spokesperson stated that the incident involved a "minor" explosion which caused "no major damage." The vessel was cleared to sail back to Denmark Saturday night.
If you were on the ferry and have information, photos or video to share, please leave a comment below.
On Monday, the Miami Herald published an article "Cruise Ship Fires Uncommon, Experts Say." The article was ostensibly about the Azamara Quest cruise ship fire, which is just the latest disaster to plague the cruise industry. The Miami Herald's article was actually the latest puff piece by a newspaper preoccupied with placing the cruise industry in the best possible light.
The article's headline "Cruise Fires Uncommon," was attributed to various people who the newspaper suggested were "experts" on the probability on how often such fires occur. The problem with this claim is that none of the three individuals mentioned in the article are experts in cruise fire statistics. All of them are either employees, friends or business partners of the cruise industry.
The Herald quoted Lanie Morgenstein, who is a cruise line media spokesperson. She manages the Twitter account of the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization.
The news paper also cites a representative of a fire-fighting company which is under contract with Royal Caribbean Cruises, and an editor of a cruise business publication who says "as a regular cruise ship passenger, I’m not worried about this." Great, but how about explaining a factual basis for this nonchalant attitude?
The Herald didn't cite to any cruise fire statistics. How often do fires occur on cruise ships? The cruise industry and the Miami Herald won't tell you. Shouldn't that be the point of the article?
The Herald cites no facts but tells you that cruise fires are "uncommon." What is "common" or "uncommon" is a relative concept. It's ultimately a personal opinion based on an objective, rational and factual analysis of the issue. The Herald didn't contact any true "experts" with a historical understanding of how often fires break out on cruise ships.
Just last month, Ross A. Klein, PhD, an international authority on the cruise ship industry, testified before the U.S. Senate, following the Costa Concordia capsizing. This is the third time that Professor was invited by our U.S. Congress to analyze the safety of the cruise industry. He discussed the number of cruise ship fires (as well as collisions, sinkings, and so forth) which have occurred over the years. He submitted comprehensive statistics and analysis of such incidents, from "minor" incidents to large scale disasters. Are cruise ships, as the industry often claims, the safest mode of commercial transportation he posed?
Cruise ships that have run aground, 1973 - 2011: 99;
Cruise ships that have experienced fires, 1990 - 2011: 79;
Cruise ships that have had collisions, 1990 - 2011: 73; and
Cruise ships that have gone adrift or have had other issues that could be seen to pose a safety risk, 2000 - 2011: 100.
Seventy-nine fires on cruise ships since 1990? That's more than three / almost four a year. "Uncommon?" I suppose so as long as it doesn't happen to you or your family while on a cruise. But don't ask that to the five crew members with smoke inhalation injuries, one in critical condition, who were injured in the Azamara Quest fire last Friday.
The Herald ignored these statistics and didn't mention the injuries to the Quest's crew. It discussed only the last three "disabling" fires since November 2010: Royal Caribbean's Azamara Quest and Carnival Corporation's Costa Allegra and Carnival Splendor.
The Herald omitted several other recent "disabling" cruise ships fires, included the December 2011 fire aboard the Bahamas Celebration cruise ship which sailed from South Florida to the Bahamas and experienced a "potentially disastrous situation" after a fire erupted in the engine room causing the cruise ship to lose all power. It was hauled into the harbor in Freeport by tugboats.
The Herald also ignored a potentially catastrophic gas turbine fire on the twelfth deck of the Queen Mary 2 in October 2011 where passengers were afraid that they were going to have to get in lifeboats in 20-25 foot seas in the Atlantic.
This is not the first time that the Miami Herald has hooked up with the cruise line PR people. There is a long tradition of friendship between the Herald and the cruise lines. The Herald's former publisher and chairman was a member of Carnival's Board of Directors. And Carnival has been a sponsor of its travel, food and wine shows for years.
Last month, the same Miami Herald reporter, Hannah Sampson, who wrote the don't-worry-about-cruise-fires article served up a happy-go-lucky PR piece after interviewing Carnival CEO Micky Arison who had been in hiding after one of his cruise ships, the Costa Concordia, killed 32 and terrorized thousands of other passengers and crew in January.
Ms. Sampson is the "tourism writer for the Miami Herald." Her probing questions revealed this insight into the disaster: "We as a company do everything we can to encourage the highest of safety standards . . We continue to offer a great vacation value, a great product, a safe product at a fantastic price . . . People should avail themselves of that product."
Ah, what's good for Carnival is good for Miami tourism.
32 dead and some poor souls still missing in the capsized cruise ship - and the Herald is helping the richest man in Florida, multi-billionaire Micky Arison, sell cruises?
The Herald chose not to interview Professor Klein despite his substantial experience, expertise and impressive credentials. Instead, we have a tourism reporter interviewing a cruise line PR representative who tweets for the cruise lines.
79 cruise fires since 1990. 4 disabling fires in the last 6 months.
According to first hand accounts taken by reporters in Malaysia, passengers from the Azamara Quest cruise ship that was stranded at sea for 24 hours after an engine room fire, were full of praise of their Captain and crew members.
After the passengers reached a hotel in Sandakan, Malaysia, reporters interviewed them on camera.
"The Captain and the staff and the crew were fantastic, Absolutely Fantastic . . . If it wasn't for the crew, there could have been more serious problem," said passenger Allan Mackenzie from Scotland.
Passenger Jackie from England said," The crew were brilliant. It was a bit worrying, we thought we may have to go into the lifeboat . . . but they managed to put the fire out very quickly"
Passenger John Rosemead said, "There was no panic and everything as far as I am concerned ran perfectly smooth. The officers and the captain kept us fully informed." He continued," the Swedish Captain was very visible throughout the cruise, even when we got off the port tonight, he was there to wish us all well as we left the ship and got onto the buses."
The AP reports that "the smell of smoke spread fear on the cruise ship Azamara Quest, whose passengers put on life vests and gathered for roll call thinking of a deadly capsizing of another luxury vessel."
However, "for most of the 48 hours it took the fire-damaged ship to lumber into a Malaysian port, they were partying more than panicking. Passengers said the hardworking crew who quickly put out an engine-room fire Friday night kept their spirits buoyant, even as they suffered without air conditioning in sweltering heat. They enjoyed barbecues on the deck and free drinks."
The AP quotes passenger Diane Becker Krasnick of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, who was celebrating her 40th wedding anniversary with her husband, "everyone was joyous that they were alive."
A passenger mentioned that one crew member was seriously injured due to smoke inhalation after being trapped in an unspecified location, apparently after the fire doors shut. Prior reports indicate that five crew members were injured, one seriously.
The passengers will be in Sandakan, Malaysia for two days sightseeing and will be flown by chartered flights to Singapore.
Photograph credit: Passenger Marc Kresnick / AP / SeattlePI
An Azamara cruise ship, the Quest, reportedly caught fire in the Sulu Sea, between the Philippines and Borneo.
The story was first mentioned on Twitter by Simon Browning, a reporter for BBC Radio 4, whose twitter handle is @simbrowning. Around 9:24 AM this morning, Mr. Browning tweeted: "hearing reports a cruise ship is on fire in Borneo - that there is chaos on board #Cruise #Borneo its full of western tourists.
The blaze reportedly occurred in the engine room on the Quest which departed on Monday for a 17-night cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore. Azamara is owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., which is based in Miami.
A cruise spokesperson stated: “On Friday, March 30, at approximately 8.19pm ship time, Azamara Quest experienced a fire in the engine room. The fire was contained to the engine room and was quickly extinguished."
The cruise line states that passengers mustered at their fire assembly stations. No passengers were reportedly injured although the cruise press release is silent regarding injuries to crew. The cruise line states that the ship is "currently running on generator power," although there is no information whether the vessel can cruise to a port under its own power. There is also no information about the weather conditions.
It will be interesting to hear first hand accounts from the passengers, whether the fire was "quickly extinguished" and how the crew handled the emergency.
Were you on the cruise? Please leave a comment or send us photos or video.
March 30, 20121 / 11:30 PM Update:
We obtained a copy of an email (below) from the Navigation Officer aboard the Quest cruise ship to the Philippines Coast Guard indicating that one crew member, Juan Carlos Rivera Escobar, was in "unstable condition" following the cruise ship fire.
It is disappointing that the cruise line would state that all passengers are uninjured and not mention the injuries to this crew member.
The last know coordinates of the stricken Quest ship per the email are Lat: 7' 35'N / Long: 119' 59' E.
The email indicates that the vessel is "not under command."
This information comes not from the cruise line but from newspaper sources on twitter.
Credit: Miquel Ortilla
March 31, 2012 Update / 1:00 AM Update:
The Azamara facebook page finally indicates that many crew members were seriously injured in the fire, as we suspected:
"Unfortunately, five crew members onboard the ship suffered smoke inhalation during the fire. The crew members are being treated in our medical facility. However, one crew member is more seriously injured and requires additional and urgent medical attention that can only be provided in a hospital. Once the ship arrives in Sandakan, the crew member will be immediately transported to a local area hospital."
The facebook page includes contact information for families:
1 - 888 - 829 - 4050 from the US and Canada.
1 - 408 - 916 - 9001 outside the US.
The Royal Caribbean operators will take calls only from families.
Newspaper / media inquiries must email firstname.lastname@example.org
April 2, 2012 Update: The Quest limped into port in Sandakan, Malaysia and have high praise for the captain and crew. The seriously injured crew member was finally taken to the hospital.
You write: "Carnival Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises had major fire outbreaks and not a life was lost."
Perhaps you forgot about my clients' husband and father, Mr. Richard Liffridge. Mr. Liffridge was sailing with his wife Vicki Liffridge when the fire broke out on the Princess cruise ship, the Star Princess. The fire erupted on a balcony and burned through one hundred cabins. As explained in the LA Times article "Cruise Industry's Dark Waters:"
Victoria Liffridge recalled that she and her husband crawled along a passageway filled with thick, black smoke as flames shot above their heads. It was "like being in an oven," she said. The couple became separated. 'The last words I heard him say were, "Vicky, don't let me die, she said. Victoria Liffridge crawled to safety, only to be told later that her husband had not survived. When she identified his body it was covered in soot from head to toe.
Mr. Liffridge left behind his wife, four children and many grandchildren.
After the fire, Princess Cruises lied to the public, saying that Mr. Liffridge died of a "cardiac arrest," as if his death and the fire were unrelated. This contrasted with his autopsy report that concluded he died in the soot-filled hallway as a direct result of the fire due to inhaling incombustible toxic particles.
Mr. Liffridge's daughter, Lynnette Hudson, was invited to Congress to testify about the ordeal and the shabby way that Princess Cruises treated her family after the fire.
Carolyn, I realize that the cruise industry has launched an aggressive media campaign to try and salvage its tarnished image with a series of false "talking points" after the Costa Concordia capsizing and the Costa Allegra fire. I am well aware that the cruise lines are asking their travel agents and friends in the media to publish positive articles about the joys of cruising. But lying to the public just perpetuates the cruise lines' reputation for dishonesty.
Remember, the motto of the Conde' Nast Traveler magazine is "truth in travel."
Tell your readers the truth.
March 6, 2012 Update: Although neither Ms. Spencer-Brown nor Conde Nast bothered to respond to us, today Conde Nast corrected the false article with the following statement:
"*Correction: In the original publication of this article, we stated that no lives were lost in the ship fires mentioned. That was incorrect. One death was caused by the Star Princess fire, and per Princess Cruises, the cause of the death was smoke inhalation."
"Carolyn Spencer Brown, from Cruise Critic, says typically cruises are very safe. "There's a lot of checks and balances along the way to keep people as safe as possible . . . You're still responsible for your child."
At a time when Costa Crociere and its parent company Carnival are under the scrutiny of the international media, reports are now emerging that the Costa Allegra caught fire when the vessel was around 260 miles from the Seychelles in the Indian Sea.
Lloyd's List states that the fire was extinguished. There is no explanation how the fire developed, although Costa is saying that the fire started in the generator room.
There were 636 passengers and 413 crew aboard the ship.
At this time, there is no indication that any passengers or crew were harmed, although this news is dependent on the transparency of the cruise ship and its operations center in Italy.
There is a diverse number of nationalities on the cruise ship, including: Italy 135, France 127, Austria 97, Switzerland 90, Germany 38, UK 31, Mauritius 15, Russia 15, Spain 15, Canada 13, Belgium 13, Slovenia 12, USA 8, Croatia 6, Czech Republic 4; Latvia 3, Portugal 2, Poland 2, Romania 2, Brazil 2, Hungary 2, Luxembourg 1, Algeria 1, Uruguay 1, and Ireland 1.
The Allegra is Costa's oldest cruise ship in operation, having come into service in 1992.
Fires on cruise ships is one of the greatest dangers the vacationing public can experience. We have written many articles about cruise ship fires. To put this latest cruise ship fire in perspective, read:
Swamped from a tide of bad publicity following the Costa Concordia disaster, the cruise industry today announced a change to its safety drill policy. The new policy? Hold your breath:
All cruise lines will begin to provide a safety briefing to the passengers before the vessel sets sail.
That's it? Why wasn't this the law a hundred years ago, after the Titanic sank?
This should convince even the most hard core cruise fan that there is something seriously amiss in the world of cruising when almost a month after the Concordia disaster, the cruise lines have finally proposed such a basic safety policy.
This should also reveal how lax the policies are under the International Maritime Organization ("IMO"). The IMO rules (suggestions I say) suggest that cruise ships can wait up to 24 hours after passengers embark to hold a safety briefing. It's difficult to justify such an unsafe policy which undoubtedly caused or contributed to deaths of some of the Concordia passengers. But what can you expect from an United Nations organization?
The cruise industry has announced this simple common-sense policy with great fanfare. USA Today's pro-cruise blog CruiseBlog quotes a cruise agent praising the new policy which was revealed in a joint statement by the Cruise Lines International Association, the European Cruise Council and the UK"s Passenger Shipping Association.
Notwithstanding the new cruise line voluntary policy, the IMO "rules" still permit waiting until 24 hours to have a muster drill. And if the cruise lines don't follow their own voluntary agreement? There is no consequence.
Just what the public needs, a trust-us promise from an unregulated cruise industry which should not be trusted.
This week the United States Coast Guard rescued two cruise passengers - one ill young man from the NCL Gem cruise ship sailing off the coast of North Carolina and a second young woman from the Explorer cruise ship who was suffering from an appendicitis attack near Key West Florida.
When we report on these type of rescues, we sometimes hear from readers of Cruise Law News complaining that the cost of the medical evacuations should be borne by the sick passengers themselves.
We especially hear these complaints when a passenger inadvertently goes overboard. Was the passenger acting negligently or was he or she under the influence of alcohol (a major money maker for the cruise lines). If so, many people protest loudly and angrily that the cruise passenger should bear the extra fuel expenses and other costs incurred by the cruise ship and the Coast Guard searching for the missing passenger.
Federal agencies are prohibited by law from seeking reimbursement of the costs associated with search and rescue of this type.
So who bears the expense when the cruise lines act irresponsibly and the cruise goes terribly wrong?
Consider the fire last year aboard the Carnival Splendor which caused the cruise ship to lose power off of the coast of Mexico. The Carnival ship was disabled due to the negligent design of the cruise ship itself which risked the lives of 4,500 passengers and crew. As we reported before, the U.S. Coast Guard blasted Carnival for its defective engines and poorly designed safety instructions which caused several thousands of passengers to find themselves helplessly adrift at sea without lighting, air conditioning or hot water on the high seas.
Carnival quickly considered legal claims against the companies which designed and manufactured the engines which failed. Carnival did not hesitate making a claim against these companies for the revenues lost while the Splendor sat in dry dock being repaired.
But who paid for the enormous costs associated with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard responding to the emergency?
You will recall that the U.S. Navy sent an aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, to the scene as the mostly U.S. passengers bobbed around on the high seas. The Navy utilized four aircraft and helicopters to assist the stricken Carnival ship. The Navy made twenty-four airlifts of food and provisions which its aircrew skilfully dropped onto the Carnival cruise ship to feed the passengers.
How much did this cost and who was paying for it?
I inquired around and the only knowledgeable source was the International Cruise Victims ("ICV") organization whose President, Ken Carver, had requested information from the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request.
The U.S. Navy timely responded to Mr. Carver's FOIA request. The Navy disclosed that it delivered 60 pallets, weighing over 37,000 pounds, of "bread, luncheon meat, pop tarts, canned crab, water and paper plates."
Considering the cost of positioning an aircraft carrier, dispatching multiple aircraft and helicopters, and delivering tons of food and water to be dropped onto the cruise ship, the Navy stated that it spent $1,884,376.75 responding to the fire aboard the Carnival Splendor cruise ship.
This figure does not include the costs incurred by the U.S. Coast Guard in responding to the crisis. Unfortunately, the Coast Guard has not yet provided any information in response to Mr. Carver's FOIA request dating back to earlier this year.
The Coast Guard's costs were undoubtedly another $2,000,000 or so in personnel and fuel costs for their vessels and helicopters.
There is a certain irony that cruise lines, which structure their businesses to avoid U.S. taxes and U.S. safety regulations, are dependent on the generosity of our Federal agencies in responding to emergencies when they get themselves into a jam.
Cruise lines incorporate in foreign countries like Liberia and Panama and register their cruise ships in foreign countries like the Bahamas in order to avoid U.S. laws and all U.S. income taxes. The cruise industry collects over $35,000,000,000 (billion) a year in income from mostly income-tax-paying-Americans, yet it avoids U.S. corporate income tax by incorporating itself and registering its ship abroad.
But when the cruise ships catch on fire and are adrift on the high seas, cruise lines like Carnival are the first to make a distress call to the United States and ask for favors from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard.
At the end of the day, it was not the cruise passengers who filed suit. It was Carnival who made legal claims against the companies which designed and manufactured its engines. Carnival made millions in the process.
Did Carnival, the only one suing, repay the U.S. government?
Not a penny.
So who paid for all of the millions of dollars in emergency services expended by our U.S. Navy and Coast Guard arising from the negligence of the tax-avoiding, foreign flagged and incorporated cruise line which stranded thousands of tax-paying Americans on the high seas?
You, the American taxpayers.
For additional information about the Carnival Splendor fire and cruise ship fires in general, consider reading:
A fire broke out yesterday aboard an Egyptian bound ferry, the Pella, in the Gulf of Aqaba, which is the northeastern tip of the Red Sea.
There were approximately 1240 passengers aboard the cruise ferry at the time of the fire. The ferry was ten miles off of the coast of Jordan. A number of military vessels and helicopters responded to the emergency. There are conflicting news accounts whether the rescue operations were conducted solely by Jordan or a combination of Jordanian and Egyptian vessels.
One passenger died. All other passengers were rescued and various news sources are reporting between twelve and twenty-five passengers were hospitalized for smoke inhalation injuries.
The Pella is owned by the Al-Jisr Al-Arabi company, which is described as a shipping company owned by Egyptian and Jordanian businessmen.
The AP reports that in February 2006, about 1,000 passengers, mostly Egyptian workers returning home from Saudi Arabia, died when a fire broke out on a ferry.
Photo credit: Abraham Farajyan / EPA (via MSNBC photoblog)
For aditional information about cruise ship fires, consider reading:
New sources report today that hundreds of people cowered for hours inside a shopping mall in the resort town of Cabo San Lucas today while security forces traded gunfire with armed criminals at the Plaza Sendero shopping center.
A local newspaper in Mexico, Milenio, reports that 12 men armed with high powered rifles (AK-47's), were traveling in three vans (other articles say 3 - 4 men). When they were observed by police, they retreated into a store at the mall. They were suspected of killing a marine the night before. There are conflicting stories whether they held 200 of the 600 shoppers hostage. After a shoot out, three men were arrested according to Borderland Beat.
This dangerous event occurred after cruise lines like Princess Cruises, its parent company Carnival Cruise Line, and Disney Cruise Line pulled out of Mexican ports such as Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta in the last few months because of fears of violence.
Is it safe to cruise to Mexico when places like Cabo San Lucas turn into a scene from the Wild West?
You can see the gun battle and arrests in the video below:
October 29, 2011 Update: The incident may be related to another gun fight broke out late on the night of October 28, 2011 between 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM in Cabo San Lucas "between Mexican military and assumed narco trafficantes." One soldier and a gunman are dead and two police officers are seriously injured. A video of the nighttime shooting is below:
Video credits: Top - TheRasek79 (YouTube); bottom - BajaWhistleBlower (YouTube)
Photo credits: Pat Garcia / La Paz, Mexico
October 30, 2011 Update: Photographs are emerging of the criminals holding hostages (above) and the military responding to the situation (below). Photos courtesy of Now Public / Pat Garcia, La Paz, Mexico.
A fire broke out on the Queen Mary 2 Wednesday night.
Cruise Critic, which characterizes the fire as "small," explains that "fire was caused by one of QM2's gas turbines, which are situated below and behind the ship's funnel. They're used to augment power to the ship's main quartet of diesel turbines, allowing the ship to travel at a higher maximum speed . . . "
Cunard issued a statement claiming that the fire was "immediately extinguished." The cruise line also claims that "neither passengers nor crew were adversely affected, and neither was the operation of the ship."
"A gas carbine in the engine room of the QM2 caught on fire this evening. Cunard staff were given a 90 minute warning in order to prepare to deploy the lifeboats. Guests had their children dropped off and their animals picked up from the kennels. Apparently it is now under control, but people are understandably shaken up."
The QM2 will be arriving today in New York late due to what the cruise line describes as "high winds and active seas."
It is a scary proposition that the Cunard cruise ship was contemplating the use of life boats in such rough weather.
It will be interesting to hear the first hand accounts of the QM2 cruise passengers once they disembark today from their transatlantic voyage.
If you were on the cruise and have comments, photos or video to share, please leave a comment below.
October 10, 2011 Update: We are receiving some interesting and intelligent comments from a number of cruisers who were on the QM2. Sounds like a bumpy ride and a fortunate ending to a potentially dangerous situation. Here is a quote from a passenger who emailed me rather than leaving a comment:
"The biggest problem with the fire on the QM2 was its location. It was NOT as previously reported in an engine room, but in a gas turbine up on deck 12. The problem was this was an open deck and the winds were very strong that night. Yes the fire was minor but the risk was that it could have been spread by very high winds. In fact after the fire was contained, the captain announced that there would be an observation team on deck 12 all night as there were some burning embers.
We learned later that if the fire had not been contained we would have had to board lifeboats in very rough waters (20-25 ft seas). Many of the passengers were needing assistance when we tendered in calm seas, because of age and physical limitations, walkers, wheelchairs etc. At the time of the fire we were more than 250 nautical miles out to sea. Just wanted to clear up a few facts. Thank you."
The Associated Press is reporting that a fire on the M/S Nordlys cruise shipthis morningkilled two people and injured at least nine others while operating on a popular route along Norway's coast.
The AP reports that nine people were taken to the hospital, two with serious burns and smoke injuries. Eight of those injured and sent to the hospital were crew members. Mail Online reports that 16 people were injured and two additional people (probably crewmembers) are missing.
The fire broke out in the engine room.
The Nordlys, operated by Hurtigruten, reportedly had over 200 passengers on board at the time of the fire. 100 passengers were evacuated by lifeboats before the cruise ship reached port in Alesund, which is 230 miles northwest of Oslo. The cruise ship was then escorted into port where the remainder of the passengers were evacuated.
The cruise line has an information link on its website which can be viewed here. The only information posted is as follows:
"Following a fire on board the MS Nordlys all guests have been safely evacuated to the Rica Parken Hotel in Ålesund. There were 207 guests on board of varying nationalities and 55 crew. Relatives hotline: +47 47 83 47 00."
If this information is correct, all of the injuries and deaths involved crewmembers.
In the last week there have been a number of articles about certain cruise lines enacting new policies to restrict smoking on their cruise ships.
Yesterday the Miami Herald published an article Cruise Lines Putting Out More "No Smoking" Signs which discussed the policies of some of the cruise lines which have new rules prohibiting smoking in cabins and other areas of the cruise ships.
None of the articles mention passenger safety. Rather the articles focus on the annoyance of passengers arriving in a cabin which had been smoked out by prior guests, or the nuisance of having to smell the smoke of cigarettes drifting into into cabins from adjacent balconies.
The article mentions a new policy by Norwegian Cruise Line ("NCL") which announced that smoking will be banned inside cabins on all of its eleven cruise ships starting in January 2012. However, NCL announced that passengers can still smoke on balconies.
Carnival also announced that smoking is permitted only in dance clubs, jazz clubs, casinos and bars, and certain parts of open decks. Like NCL, Carnival is forbidding smoking in all staterooms across its fleet of cruise ships, but it gives a green light to its passengers to smoke on balconies.
Oh, how these cruise lines forget the lessons of history.
On March 23, 2006, a passenger aboard Princess Cruises' Star Princess cruise ship smoking on a balcony flicked a cigarette overboard, thinking that it would drop innocently into the waters off of the coast of Jamaica. Instead, the burning cigarette was whipped by the winds of the cruise ship, as it proceeded at over 20 knots, into a lower balcony. It came into contact with the highly combustible furniture and partitions on a lower balcony. The cigarette smoldered, then erupted into a nightmarish fire.
Cruise passengers Richard Liffridge (photo above left) and his wife Vicky were asleep peacefully in their cabin. The plastic partitions between the balconies below them were easily combustible. The Princess cruise ship had no fire suppression systems on the balconies of the cruise ship. The fire quickly spread across hundreds of other cabin balconies and then erupted into the cruise ship cabins.
Disoriented and confused, Richard and Vicky tried to crawl out of their cabin, through the cabin hallway. They tried to hold on to one another as they tried to escape the billowing fire as they crawled, scratching across the hallway carpeting seeking safety. Fire sparked and smoke billowed over their heads.
But the smoke and fire separated them as they tried to escape.
Vicki heard Richard moan “Vicky, don’t let me die!”
Vicki searched for her husband but was overwhelmed by the smoke and fire. Richard was lost in the darkness and oppressive heat. Vicki was taken to an open deck and treated for smoke inhalation.
Vicki later identified Richard's dead body, covered in soot, resembling a chimney sweep - a far cry from the distinguished, smiling man whose photograph (top left) was taken in a smart suit and tie just the day before.
Vicki and Richard's daughter, Lynnette Hudson, and other family members retained our firm to represent them in a case against Princess Cruises. The case was highly successful, but that's not the point of this article. Rather, the surviving family members demanded that the cruise line take steps to make certain that such a catastrophe never occur again.
Princess acted quickly to replace the highly combustible balcony wall partitions and furniture on the balconies, and to install fire detectors and fire suppression systems which had never been installed on any cruise ship before.
Ms. Hudson later boarded the cruise ship with us after it had been repaired and inspected the external heat detectors and sprinkler systems which were installed after her father's death.
Ms. Hudson is shown (below) pointing to the heat detectors and sprinklers. Although Princess cruise ships have been retrofitted with sprinkler systems on the cabin's balconies, not all cruise ships sailing today have such safety systems.
Vicki Liffridge and Ms. Hudson later traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a Congressional hearing into the safety of cruise passengers. They requested Congress to enact legislation to protect passengers on cruise ships.
In her Congressional testimony, Ms. Hudson expressed her fear that other families may face the risks of a cruise fire which killed her father:
"CLIA tells us that by the year 2010 twenty million passengers will sail on cruise ships. Visions of these passengers flicking their cigarettes over the rails as unsuspecting passengers are asleep in their cabins, with no fire detectors or sprinklers instantly comes to mind . . . "
Unfortunately, many cruise lines, including Carnival (which is the parent company of Princess Cruises) and NCL have not replaced the easily combustible balcony partitions and installed fire suppression systems on the balconies.
The news today is disappointing. Carnival and NCL still permit smoking on balconies.
Why would any responsible cruise line not tell the smoke addicts that balconies are strictly off limits for lighting up a smoke?
Has Carnival and NCL learned anything in the past ten years?
Before you take your family on a cruise, ask the cruise line or your local travel agent if the cruise ship has fire suppression systems for the passenger balconies. If not, consider selecting a cruise line which does.
The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. has an interesting story containing a passenger's account of events aboard the Independence of the Seas following the explosion at the port in Gibraltar. Some of the accounts:
“People thought it was a bomb and started screaming. Parents jumped in the pool to grab their children, while others dashed to the kids’ club on deck 12 to see if their children were injured.”
"One crew member . . . heard screaming and saw black smoke; she thought one of the restaurants was on fire."
"At dinner that night, the explosion was on everyone’s lips. 'We thought it was a bomb,' one middle-aged passenger said. 'American ship in a British port – quite an easy target.'
All of the accounts we have read praised the captain and crew. "Within minutes, the captain made an announcement, ordering everyone off the open decks and balconies, and sending a rapid response team up to deck 11 where the outdoor pools and bars were packed with young families making the most of the Gibraltar heat."
"Officers ran along the side of the dock to the stern of the ship, presumably to check for any damage . . . Just four minutes later, we slipped our moorings and the ship sailed . . . Thanks to a quick-thinking captain, a major incident was averted."
YouTube member "Kasbah89" posted a video of the fire. It shows the Independence of the Seas quickly departing away from the burning oil tank and turning to head out of danger:
Were you on the cruise and have photos or video to share? Please let us here from you.
Video credit: kasbah89 / YouTube
Some amazing photographs can be viewed at David Parody's Flickr photostream here.
Several news sources are reporting that an oil tank exploded at the port in Gibraltar today.
Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas cruise ship was in port at the time of the explosion. One newspaper reports that the cruise ship was due to sail at 4 p.m. but was "berthed nearby" when the oil tank exploded.
The cruise ship then reportedly "quickly sailed away and anchored in the bay."
The Gilbraltar Chronicle reports that two people ashore were injured, one reportedly seriously due to burns.
Twelve cruise passengers were injured. The cruise line issued a statement indicating that the injuries are allegedly "minor." Subsequent news sources are saying that eleven Britons and one Swiss passenger sustained injuries consisting of burns, abrasions and a dislocated finger.
Radio Gilbraltar ran a live feed of the fire as it continued to burn, with an additional oil tank involved. Radio Gilbraltar reports that the Independence of the Seas felt the "full force" of the blast:
There is an indication that the explosion may have been caused by a spark from welding.
If you have photos or video of this incident, please contact us and we will post them on our blog.
Yesterday was a rather strange day. I received a couple of calls and emails asking for information about a cruise ship fire which ruined the honeymoon of Tina Fey.
Tina Fey? The comic, I asked? You mean the Saturday Night Live star with the great impressions of Sarah Palin? The star of NBC's 30 Rock?? On her honeymoon on a cruise ship which caught fire, I asked??? Yes, that's right the inquiring minds insisted, mentioning something about "reading about it in the newspapers."
Hmm. The last cruise ship fire I am aware of involved the Mexican cruise ship, the Ocean Star Pacifica, earlier this week. A generator fire knocked out power to the cruise ship, forcing the evacuation of its passengers and crew. Certainly a celebrity like Tina Fey would not be caught dead slumming on a 41 year old Mexican cruise ship. Maybe she sailed on a super luxury ship like the Silver Cloud or the Seabourn Sojourn but certainly not an old tub like the Ocean Star.
So I googled Tina Fey and cruise ship fire and sure enough, there were a dozen "articles" about the topic. But the "newspapers" were all gossip rags like STAR magazine which published the "breaking story" "Fey's Honeymoon Cruise Was Wrecked By Fire," which gave this account:
Comedienne Tina Fey will always remember her honeymoon for all the wrong reasons - the cruise ship she and her husband were sailing home to New York from Bermuda on caught fire.
The actress/writer admits the voyage had been a lot of fun until she found herself standing by a lifeboat about to abandon ship.
Fey recalls, "The ship was on fire, so we had to go and stand by our lifeboats... and we really had to stand women and children in the front, men in the back, and I remember holding hands with my husband, thinking like, 'Oh my gosh, we're gonna be one of those people on the news that died on their honeymoon...' and he said he was thinking... 'It's gonna be so hard for her when they bring the lifeboats down and she stays with me'. I was thinking, 'It's gonna be so hard for him when I get on that lifeboat. But it all worked out.'
This account intrigued me even more. Tina Fey is a joker but certainly she would not joke about something as serious as a cruise ship fire with passengers about to abandon ship.
So I did a little research, and found out that the incident did occur although it certainly was not "breaking news." The fire occurred in June 2001, and involved Royal Caribbean's Nordic Empress.
The Nordic Empress was sailing back from Bermuda to New York following a 7 day cruise. The fire erupted when the cruise ship was about 140 miles northwest of Bermuda.
The Royal Caribbean PR people said that the fire "was quickly extinguished by the ship's crew and its sprinkler system."
The Coast Guard investigation revealed that the fires in the engine room were not completely extinguished for three hours. The damage caused the vessel to be adrift for seven hours. (The country of Liberia, where the cruise ship was flagged, invited the U.S. Coast Guard to conduct the inspection).
You can read the marine casualty report here, and you can review an excellent summary of the incident by the Professional Mariner here.
Saturday Night Live (SNL) has entertained the public with some funny skits about cruise ships over the years. Seth Meyer did a funny bit about Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. Adam Sandler starred in a unfunny movie called "Going Overboard."
But unlike her co-stars on SNL, Tina Fey went through the real deal - a fire which disabled the cruise ship and caused over 1,500 passengers to stand at their muster stations on the deck at night ready to abandon ship - only to now laugh about it ten years later.
First impressions are everything. The first Mexican cruise line has already earned a dubious reputation.
The Secretary of Tourism, Gloria Guevara Manzo, said that the cruises are key to the expansion to tourism in Mexico.
Mexico is off to a rough start.
Ocean Star Cruises had just its second cruise this week. Cruceros Ocean Star had a disastrous start. A generator fire knocked out power to the Ocean Star Pacific cruise ship, forcing the evacuation of its passengers and crew Saturday. Some 522 passengers and 226 crew members were reportedly evacuated by catamaran to the port of Huatulco with the intention of flying them to Mexico City.
The Ocean Star Pacific was built in 1971 for Royal Caribbean Cruises and sailed as one of Royal Caribbean first cruise ships as the Nordic Prince.
We wish our Mexican friends better luck with their new cruise line!
Cruise Law News was featured in an article yesterday about the Carnival Splendor fire and the new Coast Guard marine bulletins criticizing the cruise line's fire suppression system which malfunctioned. The article is by Joel Siegfried in the National Examiner entitled "Coast Guard Blasts Carnival Splendor for Fire Negligence." The Examiner is one of the newer and very popular internet newspapers, with a readership of around 1,000,000.
The Examiner also has an interesting photo slideshow showing the defective fire suppression system on the Carnival cruise ship. Here is the article unedited:
Two just released reports by the United States Coast Guard are highly critical of the Carnival Splendor concerning a fire at sea which disabled the vessel on November 8, 2010. Upon learning of this report, many of the passengers who were aboard the Carnival Splendor "Cruise to Nowhere" were incensed about the ship's inability to properly manage an automated emergency fire suppression system, which was reported on a KGTV interview segment on Friday, December 24, 2010.
For Carnival Cruise Line alone, these have included a fire on the Carnival Ecstasy, shortly after leaving leaving Miami on July 20, 1998, that was extinguished by fire boats, causing damages exceeding $17 million; the Carnival Tropicale in September 1999, which left the ship adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with 1,700 passengers and crew members for almost two days after the fire disabled the engines; and the June 18, 1995 fire aboard the Carnival Celebration which forced 1,700 passengers to evacuate.
We asked Mr. Walker to give us his views on the Carnival Splendor fire. He graciously responded with the following remarks on Christmas Day.
"In the 1999 fire on Carnival's Tropicale there where problems where the crew members didn't speak English well enough to provide safety instructions. So here we are over 10 years later with another breakdown in communication with the fire instruction manual on the Splendor written in broken English. Italian officers and Filipino crew scratching their heads trying to decipher an instruction book written in broken English as the cruise ship burns. What a frightening spectacle. No one realized the instruction manual didn't match the fire suppression system for two and one-half years? This certainly gives the public an insight into the consequences of flagging cruise ships in Panama. The marine safety bulletins reflects Carnival's negligence."
According to the reports, the two alerts each "address critical concerns uncovered during an ongoing marine casualty investigation and should be of vital interest to Ship Builders, Classification Societies, Owner / Operators and others involved with vessel operations."
Their findings are unequivocal and damning of the Carnival Splendor, drawing conclusions that the fire itself could have easily been controlled and extinguished, if not for numerous flaws in the training, maintenance, and operation of the Splendor's emergency automated fire control system.
Everything possible that could have gone wrong, did in fact go terribly wrong, starting with the ship's Fire Instruction Manual (FIM) which had incorrect, outdated, or erroneous instructions, illustrations and diagrams, similar to giving the owner of a Mercedes-Benz a maintenance manual for a BMW, after it had been translated from German into English by someone fluent in Japanese.
But that was just for starters. Valves that released carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, which is commonly used on engine and electrical fires, did not open, and completely failed to release the gas, which would have deprived the fire of oxygen. In addition, pipes leaks, some elements of the distribution system were designed in such a way as to retain water at low points that were unable to be drained, and caused corrosion. Seals and pipe joints also had flaws.
The ship's Master, Captain Claudio Cupisti, made the decision to release CO2 from the fixed fire fighting system on Monday, November 8 at about 6:00 p.m. PST. It failed to operate as designed. Subsequently, crewmembers were unable to activate it manually, and CO2 was never directed into the machinery space.
There were also serious questions raised about the testing and maintenance of the Splendor's CO2 emergency fire extinguishing system, and the training of crew in its use.
Eventually, crew members manually extinguished the fire, but not before it had caused extensive electrical damage, which rendered the vessel dead in the water 55 miles off Punta San Jacinto on the northern Baja California coast, and 110 miles southwest of San Diego, requiring it to be towed back into port. The U.S. Navy had to airlift 70,000 pounds critical food and water, including cans of Spam, to it by Sikorsky MH-60 Seahawk helicopters and Gruman C-2A Greyhound logistics aircraft from the San Diego based aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).
All 3,299 passengers and 1,167 crew members ended their three day voyage to nowhere in San Diego on Thursday, November 11, when the massive 1,000 foot long ship was expertly guided into the B Street Embaradero Cruise Ship Terminal by six tug boats at 8:30 a.m. local time.
Before the Coast Guard pointed out these failures, we had contacted Carnival Cruise Line on November 18, 2010 with a list of nine specific questions relating to the ship's mechanical and electrical redundancy, asking why the fire was able to do such destructive damage. These questions were ignored by Ms. Aly Bello, a spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines.
A follow up request specifically asked for a conference call interview with a senior executive or naval engineer from Carnival Cruise Lines, or a written reply by such an expert authority to those questions. Once again, that request was ignored. Instead, we were provided with press releases about cancellations in sailing schedules and the financial impact on the company. We again contacted the Company, and pointed out that in parallel instances in the aviation industry, we were able to talk with company officials, even during times of stress and turmoil for that carrier. Once more, our requests for additional information and interviews were ignored.
Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect a cruise ship company, which is literally under fire, to be willing to discuss their own culpability, especially in light of the fact that the cruise industry has been reluctant in the past to discuss safety practices, or issues of Norovirus shipboard disease outbreaks, and as attorney Walker confirmed, has a long history of mishandling fires at sea.
Even in this instance, the U.S. Coast Guard seems to be walking on egg shells, by keeping the vessel's name, which is clearly shown in one of the photographs contained in their report, invisible in the report itself.
Finally, Carnival Cruise Lines declined offers by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate this incident, and instead turned the matter over to the Panama Maritime Authority, the country in which the vessel is registered. The U.S. Coast Guard requested to join the investigation, and Panama consented. The NTSB provided two experts to assist the Coast Guard, following its request for technical assistance. Information on the progress of the investigation will eventually be released by the Panama Maritime Authority.
Any air carrier in the United States which operated in a similar manner would have questions raised about its lack of transparency, and loss of public confidence in that company's crisis management abilities.
Top photo: Carnival Splendor towed back to port in San Diego (AP via National Examiner)
2nd photo: Broken CO2 valve (Coast Guard via National Examiner)
3rd photo: Wrong fire instruction manual (Coast Guard via National Examiner)
Bottom photo: Leaking CO2 piping / hose connections (Coast Guard via National Examiner)
Yesterday, the U.S. Coast Guard issued 2 Marine Safety Alerts regarding the CO2 firefighting system on Carnival Splendor cruise ship which failed to operate following an engine room fire on November 8, 2010.
The first alert indicated that the fire instruction manual (FIM) did not match the actual CO2 system aboard the cruise ship. The second alert revealed that the pipes and hose connections of the fire suppression system "leaked extensively," actuating arms to valves were loose, a wrong type of sealant was used on the pipe threads, and a valve failed to work.
The bottom line? A newly constructed cruise ship, flying the flag of Panama, with a confusing fire instruction manual, poor maintenance, and faulty equipment - endangering the lives of U.S. passengers.
Cruise Law News (CLN) has been cited by lots of newspapers and television stations in the last year. But today I was excited to learn that OpenSecrets.org (Center for Responsible Politics) cited CLN in its blog article about the Carnival Splendor ship fire.
OpenSecrets.org is one of my favorite websites. It is a nonpartisan watchdog organization which tracks money’s influence on U.S. elections and public policy. It shines light on who is funding politicians and the effect of money on the government formulation of policy and laws which affect all of us.
"News stories continue to trickle in on the nearly disastrous Carnival Cruise voyage that safely embarked in San Diego on Thursday. After an on-board fire disabled the ship, passengers were forced to live two days without the promised luxuries of a Carnival Cruise ship. Fortunately, no one was injured in the fire. The recent fire brings to light the not altogether uncommon occurrence of fires on cruise ships, an event that has made the news more than a few times in recent years. Employees of the parent company of Carnival Cruise Lines, the Carnival Corporation, have contributed modestly during the recent 2010 election cycle -- donating only about $317,600 to federal candidates and committees. And the Carnival Corporation itself has spent only $90,000 on lobbying in 2010, with legislative targets including H.R. 802, the Maritime Pollution Prevention Act of 2008 and H.R. 6434/S. 2881, the Clean Cruise Ship Act of 2008. With the media firmly focused on this nightmare voyage, legislators may turn towards the issue of cruise safety but until then, comedians will continue to rib the harrowing experiences of this cruise."
The article also linked to David Letterman's "Top 10 Things You Don't Want to Hear While You Are Stranded On A Cruise:"
Another strange week in the world of cruising, with multiple stories about the cruise industry appearing in the main stream newspapers and on the major television networks.
Cruise Fire Fallout: The Splendor cruise ship will be out of service until January 2011, meaning Carnival will lose revenue from over 20,000 passengers. A Time Magazine blog blasted a harsh headline about the predicament with "Worst Cruise Ship Ever: Disabled Splendor To Ruin 20,000 More Vacations." By my calculations, Carnival is facing around $50 million dollars in lost revenue over the next two months. But stockholders don't worry. The cruise line will eventually get every penny back from the manufacturers and designers of the Splendor's engine system.
Cruise Was No Nightmare: Even though hundreds of local television stations and newspapers covered the "cruise from hell" angle of the Splendor fire, some optimistic passengers (with a sense of humor and a keen perspective) still had a decent time. Colorado residents Maggie and Ken Wildenstein commented "I think Carnival treated us very well" in a nice story in their local newspaper, The Fort Morgan Times, entitled "Cruise Was No Nightmare."
Cruise Ship Design Flaw?: The Splendor was towed to a facility near 10th Avenue in San Diego for repairs to the engine room (article by KUSI News-San Diego). The U.S. Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be participating in the investigation into the fire, which is being conducted by the Panama Maritime Authority because, like all of Carnival's ships, the Splendor is registered in Panama to avoid U.S. regulations and taxes. The local news station in San Diego questions how a single generator failure could cause a catastrophe with the vessel losing all of its power. Does the vessel have a design flaw? The cruise ship's entire electrical systems should not have been damaged to such a degree.
Business as Usual in St. Kitts: Two days ago, the tourism board in St. Kitts announced that the "cruise industry" would be sending "security consultants" to the island to investigate whether it was safe for cruise passengers to tour St. Kitts. Today, a local newspaper announced that the cruise line executives pledged to return to the island - "No More Cruise Ship Cancellation to St. Kitts." Well, that was a fast investigation by the cruise lines. Although the local newspapers initially chose not to publish the name of the cruise ship involved in the robbery, they were quick to broadcast the names of the five banditos who allegedly robbed the passengers: Elroy "Stanny" Williams (age 29), Devon "‘X Man" Hodge (28), Grenville "Rogie" Rogers (20), Junior "Q" Sabratie (24), and Admenston Lewis (27) all local residents of Sandy Point in St. Kitts. It's amazing how fast the local police can arrest suspects when an entire country's economy is based on the cruise industry.
Oprah Loses Her Allure: The week ended strangely with another Oprah give away, this time a "7-day cruise on the new largest ship in the world," Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. OK. I admit it. I am not a fan of Oprah, who seems rather duplicitous to me. And Royal Caribbean has a well documented history of exploiting its crew members and the Caribbean islands for decades. So they team up to give some free cruises for PR purposes to promote Royal Caribbean's newest Monstrosity of the Seas. Sustainability anyone? Two thumbs down.
Spy Cruise Spooks (Kooks?): Talking about strange, last month, I commented on a rather bizarre event scheduled for this week called the Spy Cruise where certain passengers on the Holland America Line's Eurodam cruise ship can attend lectures and talks on espionage, spies, intelligence, and counterterrorism by speakers who are "intelligence experts, leaders, officers, operatives, analysts, authors and historians, many of whom served in the US Intelligence Community." Well, a "National Security Reporter" for the Toronto Star, Michelle Shephard, sailed on the cruise this week.
Ms. Shephard interviewed some of the top former spooks, like Michael Michael Hayden, former head of the NSA and CIA (photo left - is he showing how you waterboard a terrorist suspect?), and former CIA director Porter Goss (photo middle) about some serious subjects like "terrorism, tourism and torture." By the way, nice cufflinks gentlemen!
Hayden, a supporter of waterboarding, dismissed criticism of the interrogation technique, saying "I don’t care . . . This is a war . . . It’s about defense. It’s not about going through a judicial process.” The Canadian reporter, Ms. Shephard, points out the incongruity of discussing ". . . waterboarding when seniors graze on buffets and younger, scantily clad passengers gyrate to a Cher tune nearby."
Wildenstein photo: The Fort Morgan Times, Dan Barker, Times Staff Writer
Oprah and the biggest cruise cruise ship in the world: Huffington Post
Spy Cruise photo: Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star
NBC New York has a nice video of the spirited reaction of passengers, who were aboard the disabled Carnival Splendor cruise ship, after returning home. The video is from NBC New York's "The Show Must Go On, Even if the Ship Couldn't" by Tim Minton.
Now that the disabled Carnival Splendor is back in a U.S. port, some lawyers are advertising that the passengers should consider filing a lawsuit. One cruise site, offering "cruise insider expert advice," is shilling for a Miami lawyer: "Now is the time to join the November 7, 2010 passengers in a joint effort for compensation. Contact us if you were on this cruise."
Such desperate solicitation like this never ceases to amaze me.
Any time there is a cruise disaster, the issue of lawsuits arises. Sometimes there is a basis to file a lawsuit, and sometimes - like this time - there is clearly not. Many passengers from the Carnival Splendor have contacted our office seeking a maritime lawyer to sue the cruise line for damages. We have told them that there is no basis to consider suing Carnival under these circumstances. They are wasting their time and money if they file a lawsuit, for these three reasons:
In order to have a legitimate case for compensation, a cruise passenger has to suffer a personal injury. Experiencing inconvenience and unpleasant circumstances does not constitute a personal injury unless there is a physical injury. If you fall down a flight of stairs in the dark and break your hip, that's a personal injury. But taking cold showers, smelling toilets that can't be flushed, eating Spam sandwiches in the dark or other similar "cruise from hell" stories are not compensable.
The cruise ticket drafted by Carnival protects the cruise line: “If the performance of the proposed voyage is hindered or prevented by . . . breakdown of the vessel . . . Carnival may cancel the proposed voyage without liability to refund passage money or fares paid in advance.” The passenger ticket also requires passengers to file suit in Miami, which the United States Supreme Court has upheld.
Carnival has already offered to refund the passengers' fare and travel expenses and a free cruise of equal value in the future. So if you are foolish enough to file suit (in Miami), you simply will not do any better than what is already being offered now. Plus you will incur legal expenses and travel expenses pursuing a case in Miami which you are certain to lose.
Carnival's offer after this fire should be compared to its response to the fire aboard the Carnival Tropicale cruise ship in 1999. Like the Splendor, the Tropicale was disabled by an engine room fire and the cruise ship bobbed around in the Gulf of Mexico. Carnival offered the passengers only a 25% discount - which the passengers felt was a slap in the face and created a public relations nightmare.
Carnival has handled this fire knowing that its response will be scrutinized in the court of public opinion. Its CEO traveled from Miami to San Diego and held a press conference where he apologized and offered a full refund, reimbursement of travel expenses and a free future cruise.
Most Americans think that Carnival's offer is fair. MSNBC ran a story yesterday "Free Cruise Should Be Enough for Splendor Passengers." In a poll of over 10,000 readers, MSNBC asked should the passengers stuck on the Carnival Splendor consider legal action? 88% said: "No - Carnival's compensation package is more than generous." Only 8% said: "Yes - Days at sea in miserable conditions is worth more than money back and a future cruise." (The remaining 4% said: "Unsure - Passengers may have a tough time since they signed an air-tight contract.")
Although the passengers on the Splendor were inconvenienced by the fire and the elderly undoubtedly suffered the most, sometimes a cruise line will step up to the plate and make a fair offer. But if you decide to reject it, please don't call us. Most jurors will not have much patience for vacationers complaining about eating Pop Tarts on a cruise ship, when some of the jurors cannot afford a cruise in the first place and our U.S. troops have been eating MRE meals in the middle of the desert in Iraq and Afghanistan.
November 14, 2010 Update:
A reader of Senior Cruise Director John Heald's blog sums up Canival's compensations as follows:
Future credit equal to total of what was paid to be applied to a future cruise and must be used within 2 years.
Refund of transportation costs to the pier and from San Diego back home. One person said they took a bus from Las Vegas to the pier and Carnival (besides putting them up in San Diego is flying them home.)
Overnight stay in San Diego for those who requested it AND a daily stipend.
For those who had flights Carnival made the changes for them.
Any charges made on Sunday on the guests “Sign and Sail card were forgiven!!! (This included spa treatments, alcohol, purchases in the gift shop AND even gambling losses in the casino slots!!!)
All photos taken by Carnival of the guests were put out in the photo shop and guests were invited to come get their pictures at no charge!
On Tuesday and Wednesday Carnival opened some bars. Alcohol, wine and beer was given to the guests.
Carnival advised the guests that everything in their mini bars was free! (My minibar had 6 sodas, 6 beers, and 10 or 12 shot bottles of alcohol.)
This blog article went viral and was discussed by:
As I watched CNN and MSNBC interview passengers disembarking from the ill fated cruise aboard the Splendor, passenger after passenger stated that no one explained to them that the cruise ship had been disabled due to a fire. Several passengers said only that thee was "some smoke." One of the reporters on CNN responded "that's incredible!" upon learning that the cruise line had kept the passengers in the dark, literally and figuratively, following the fire which left the cruise ship dead in the water.
Keeping passengers in the dark is nothing new for Carnival and other cruise lines following disasters like this. Carnival has the worst history of fires than any other cruise line over the past ten to fifteen years. In 1995, the Carnival Celebration caught fire. In 1998, the Carnival Ecstasy burned shortly after leaving the port of Miami. A year later, the Carnival Tropicale was disabled following a fire in the engine room, and the cruise ship bobbed around in the Gulf of Mexico for a couple of days. These two Carnival ships had suffered previous fires as well. In 2006, a large fire broke out on the Star Princess operated by a subsidiary of Carnival, Princess Cruises, in the middle of the night resulting in a death and multiple injuries. Last year, a fire in the engine room disabled the Royal Princess operated by Princess Cruises, which had to be towed back to an Egyptian port.
In all of these incidents, passengers learned the true facts only after leaving the cruise ship. Following the Tropicale fire, passengers complained that some crew members did not speak English well enough to provide safety instructions.The New York Times reported on the debacle in an article "Language Barrier Cited In Inquiry Into Ship Fire."
During the ensuing NTSB investigation,the Master of the Tropicale testified that he was concerned that the engine room would explode. He kept information about the raging fire from passengers because he worried they might panic and jump overboard, according to the St. Pete Times article "Cruise Captain Feared Panic."
Some of the passengers interviewed yesterday by CNN did not seem to mind the limited information. One passenger commented that she understood why Carnival withheld information from them, reasoning that it was a prudent decision to avoid panic among the passengers.
I'm not too sure about that. We have an obligation to our children to screen information to keep them from being unduly frightened. But treating adult passengers like children is not the cruise line's prerogative. Passengers should not learn the basic fact that their ship was disabled by an engine room fire only after walking down the gangway.
"Two tug boats are slowly towing the Carnival Splendor cruise ship and her 4,500 passengers towards San Diego today. The 952-foot ship, which left Long Beach on Sunday for the Mexican Riviera, has been adrift since an engine room fire early Monday. Rather than lavish meals, passengers are surviving on Spam, Pop Tarts and canned crabmeat flown in by helicopter. Friends and families of stranded passengers are concerned because communication with their loved ones has been severely limited. It’s expected that the Splendor will arrive in port in San Diego late Thursday. Critics say there are serious safety lapses throughout the cruise industry and this accident was waiting to happen. What’s being done to protect passengers?"
Kendall Carver, Chairman, International Cruise Victims
Jim Walker, Maritime attorney based in Miami and editor of “Cruise Law News”
Photo credit: Kevin Gray/U.S. Navy via Getty Images (via KPCC South California Public Radio)
L.A. Times: The L.A. Times also featured ICV members Ken Carver, my client Lynnette Hudson (photo bottom) whose father Richard Liffridge was killed due to a fire on a cruise ship operated by a Carnival subsidiary Princess Cruises, cruise safety expert Mark Gaouette and me in an article "Stranded Cruise Ship Offers Lesson in Huge Vessels' Vulnerabilities." Here is the text:
"They're called "floating cities," massive cruise ships that resemble skyscrapers and offer all the amenities of high-end resorts — spas and casinos, Broadway shows and amusement parks, fine dining and luxury shopping.
But the Carnival Splendor also offers a cautionary tale about just how vulnerable these mega-ships can be. Left powerless by an engine fire shortly after embarking on a seven-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera, the Splendor is expected to be towed into port in San Diego late Thursday. If the ship cannot make sufficient speed under tow, it is possible it will be taken to Ensenada, company officials said.
An early morning fire in the generator compartment Monday knocked out several of the ship's operating systems and left the nearly 4,500 passengers and crew members without air conditioning, hot food and telephone service. Even the flush toilets were down for a while.
With communications largely cut off, it's unclear what kind of hardship passengers have had to endure. But Carnival Chief Executive Gerry Cahill acknowledged in a statement that passengers were dealing with an "extremely trying situation."
"Conditions on board the ship are very challenging, and we sincerely apologize for the discomfort and inconvenience our guests are currently enduring," he said.
The "gourmet delicacies" of the " Manhattan chic" Pinnacle Steakhouse were replaced by 70,000 pounds of bread, canned milk and other emergency supplies, which were flown from the North Island Naval Air Station at Coronado to the U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and then helicoptered out to the Splendor, stranded 160 miles southwest of San Diego. The company is paying the military for the food and supplies, officials said.
"There are significant risks as these ships get bigger and bigger," said Kendall Carver, president of International Cruise Victims. "This one held over 4,000 people. The new ones owned by Royal Caribbean hold over 6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew members, over 8,000 people. A fire on a ship like that would be disastrous."
The Carnival Splendor experienced its problems relatively close to several major ports, making rescue possible in only a few days.
"If it was hundreds of miles out, and you had a fire that wasn't suppressed, and you had rough weather, you'd have a complete disaster," said Jim Walker, a Miami-based attorney who specializes in cruise line litigation.
Although the $40-billion cruise ship industry — and its vessels — has been growing, it has been dogged in the last decade with controversies over passenger health and safety. Carver helped start International Cruise Victims after his daughter, Merrian, disappeared while on an Alaskan cruise in 2004.
The organization has pushed for stiffer laws regulating the cruise ship industry; just four months ago, President Obama signed into law tougher new rules for reporting crimes at sea, improving ship safety and training staff to collect evidence of crimes. The changes will go into effect in 2012.
But the new law makes only passing mention of fire safety issues, even though "the most serious event that can happen on a cruise ship is a main space fire, which is what happened on the Splendor," said Mark Gaouette, former director of security for Princess Cruises and author of the recently released "Cruising for Trouble."
On a Navy ship, Gaouette notes, every person has a fire-fighting role, and the crew is trained constantly in how to respond to a fire. On a cruise ship, "two-thirds to three-quarters of the population are passengers. They become problems and liabilities in a major fire. They have to be shepherded to safe areas."
Statistics are hard to come by for incidents on cruise ships, but Gaouette said the website cruisebruise.com lists eight major fires on cruise ships in the last five years, compared with just three in the previous seven years.
"As cruise ships become larger and their number increases on the high seas," he said, "the threat of fire and other risks to passengers will increase proportionally."
On the Splendor at 6:30 a.m. Monday, the 3,299 passengers were evacuated from their cabins and told to go to the ship's upper deck. They were later allowed to return. By afternoon, the U.S. Coast Guard had dispatched three cutters and an HC-130 Hercules helicopter to the ship's aid. The Mexican navy sent aircraft and a 140-foot patrol boat.
The Coast Guard has remained in contact with the ship throughout the ordeal, officials said. Whether the ship goes to San Diego or Ensenada, the company has promised to transport passengers back to Long Beach.
Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines has promised a full refund for passengers and a complimentary future cruise equal to the amount paid for this voyage, which was scheduled to visit Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. The company announced that the Nov. 14 seven-day cruise from Long Beach to the same ports has been canceled.
"The safety of our passengers and crew is our top priority, and we are working to get our guests home as quickly as possible," said Cahill of Carnival Cruise Lines. Carnival Corp., which also includes such lines as Princess Cruises and Holland America and has 98 ships worldwide, reported revenues of $13.2 billion in 2009.
A spokeswoman for the Cruise Lines International Assn. did not respond to requests for comment. The organization's website says the U.S. Coast Guard calls cruising "one of the safest modes of transportation, and the industry is constantly striving to improve its safety procedures. Over the past two decades, an estimated 90 million passengers safely enjoyed a cruise vacation."
But that is little comfort to Lynnette Hudson, whose father died of smoke inhalation during a fire on the Star Princess, which is operated by Carnival, in 2006. It was his first cruise, she testified to Congress, and he was celebrating his 72nd birthday.
Hudson pushed for the more stringent standards that were signed into law this summer and is still fighting for stiffer laws. "I think if there's a major fire on a cruise ship, they're not prepared," she said in an interview. "They don't have sufficient training."
A fire broke out this morning in the engine room on the Carnival Splendor during a cruise to the Mexican Riviera (Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.) Passengers were told to move from their cabins to the Lido Deck on the upper level.
The fire burned from around 6:00 a.m. until it was extinguished around 9 a.m. according to several news sources. However, the fire erupted again according to U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Kevin Metcalf.
The Press-Telegram reports that two guests and a crew member suffered panic attacks, but no one was physically injured.
The cruise ship had left the Port of Long Beach on Sunday with 3,299 guests and 1,167 crew members.
The cruise ship is dead in the water. There are reports that there is only an emergency generator running, which means no air conditioning or working toilets.
The cruise ship is approximately 55 miles west of Punta San Jacinto, which is about 150 miles south of San Diego, and will have to be towed back to a port by tugs.
The Splendor is the Carnival cruise ship which Senior Cruise Director John Heald is currently on. Cruise Director Heald writes an excellent blog called the John Heald Blog. He wrote a timely and sensitive blog last month when a Carnival crew member tragically committed suicide. Will he write an informative blog about this latest incident on the Splendor?
The engines were manufactured by Wartsila. The Splendor is diesel-electric powered using six Wartsila diesel engines and has a power output of 63,400kW. I have made an inquiry to Wartsila but I have not received a response.
Were you a passenger or crew member on the cruise ship? Do you have photos or video to share? Please leave a comment below.
The Washington Post reports this morning that a fire on a German cruise ship at a port in western Norway forced the evacuation of the 607 passengers and crew members on board.
A rescue services spokesman says the passengers on the Deutschland cruise ship are being evacuated.
The fire started in the machine room and firefighters have now contained it to that area. The cruise ship was carrying 364 passengers, 241 crew members and two Norwegian ship pilots when it caught fire at a port in Eidfjorden. The ship was heading to Hamburg.
The cruise ship is operated by Peter Deilmann Cruises and caters to the German premium market.
The Deutschland was featured in the German TV show "Das Traumschiff" - which is similar to the "The Love Boat" in the United States.
Today marks the four year anniversary of the death of Richard Liffridge, who died during a vacation cruise on March 23, 2006 when the cruise ship caught fire.
Mr. Liffridge was a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. After 20 years of honorable military service, he retired from the United States Air Force. His Air Force career allowed him to travel to places he might not have otherwise seen such as France, Germany and England. He proudly served his country in the Vietnam and Korean wars. After retiring from the Air Force, Mr. Liffridge worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for a number years. He subsequently retired and relocated to Locust Grove, GA, to realize his life long dream of retiring and enjoying the company of his family and friends. Mr. Liffridge was a dedicated and committed member of the Masons - the oldest and largest world wide fraternity dedicated to the brotherhood of man.
Below is a collage of Mr. Liffridge growing up as a child, in the service, and married with kids. His loved ones should remember him in happier times, with his family and the friends whose lives he enriched over the years.
One of the dangers of cruising is the cruise ship catching on fire. Most families who go on a cruise don't like to think about it.
But it happens.
A Rash of Fires on Carnival Cruise Ships
One of the most publicized incidents involved Carnival's Ecstasy (left) in 1998 when it caught fire shortly after leaving the port of Miami. If the fire had occurred thirty minutes later there would have been no fire boats to extinquish the flames. Local news helicopters from Miami flew to the scene and filmed the burning ship. The story was broadcast on all of the local Miami news stations.
The next year, another Carnival cruise ship, the Tropicale, caught fire and the ship was adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with 1,700 passengers and crew members for almost two days after the fire disabled the engines. This incident received national attention, particularly after passengers complained that some crew members did not speak English well enough to provide safety instructions.The New York Times reported on the debacle in an article "Language Barrier Cited In Inquiry Into Ship Fire."
During the ensuing investigation,the captain of the Tropicale testified that he was concerned that the engine room would explode. He kept information about the raging fire from passengers because he worried they might panic and jump overboard, according to the St. Pete Times article "Cruise Captain Feared Panic."
Despite wide-spread media coverage, few major news organizations reported the Tropicale’s prior problems which could be traced back to 1982 when a fire broke out during its inaugural cruise. And the Ecstasy had also caught on fire earlier as well, in 1996.
Carnival has had more than its share of fires, with the Carnival Celebration burning in 1995 which forced 1,700 passengers to evacuate.
Between the Ecstasy and Tropicale fires, the Sun Vista ignited off of the coast of Malaysia and 1,000 passengers found themselves in lifeboats in the Straits of Malacca.
The most recent fire occurred last year involving a Carnival subsidiary, Princess Cruises. The Royal Princess' engine room caught fire in June of last year during a Mediterranean cruise near Egypt. The cruise line initially didn't release any information to the public. But a passenger, a Pastor from South Carolina, Greg Surratt tweeted on his Twitter account @GregSurratt about the fire from his iphone on the cruise ship.
Reverend Surratt tweeted that the fire had disabled the cruise ship and a tug had to tow the ship back to port. Frantic families in the U.S. had to rely on Pastor Surratt for information about their loved ones. He even tweeted photos of the fire and the passengers sprawling out on the deck in the dark (right) via "Twitpic" - an application which permits photos to be uploaded onto Twitter.
When Princess finally posted its typical less-than-forthcoming corporate press statement, no one was paying attention to the cruise line. Everyone was listening to Pastor Surratt tweeting away on the cruise ship in the Mediterranean. Fortunately no passengers were injured.
Disaster Strikes the Star Princess
Real tragedy struck passengers on Princess' Star Princess cruise ship in 2006.
A fire began on a balcony and quickly destroyed several hundred cabins and killed a passenger, Richard Liffridge of Georgia. We represented Mr. Liffridge's children in litigation against Princess.
The cause of the fire was a cigarette being flicked over an upper balcony. Some of the Princess cruise ships are designed with the balconies of the lower cabins jutting out (photographs below).
So if anything - like a cigarette - is thrown out from an upper balcony, it will land in the balconies below. This created an obvious fire hazard, particularly considering that the balcony chairs and balcony partitions were highly combustible and none of the balconies had heat detectors or sprinkler systems.
Princess knew about the danger, but chose to simply place a sticker on the sliding glass doors stating: "fire hazard - do not throw cigarette ends over the side."
Hoping a smoker won't flick his or her cigarette butts over the rail is wishful thinking - and Princess had no fire suppression systems in place to deal with a balcony fire. The balcony furniture and partitions acted like kindling wood, ready to explode into flames.
Mr. Liffridge's children's story was widely reported, including in an article in the Dover Post, which is re-printed below:
"Siblings Take on Cruise Line after Father’s Death"
Richard Liffridge’s children intend to make sure no other family endures the heartbreak they must bear for the rest of their lives.
An Air Force tech sergeant who retired at Dover Air Force Base, Liffridge and his wife Vicky were on a Caribbean cruise March 23 when a fire broke out aboard their ship, the Star Princess. The fire damaged or destroyed 283 cabins – and killed Liffridge.
Shortly thereafter, Phil Liffridge and his sisters, Michele Norris and Doris Henry, all of Dover, and Lynnette Hudson of Bear, set up the non-profit Richard Liffridge Foundation in honor of their father. Their goal is to bring about tougher fire regulations aboard cruise ships and to lobby for legislation to make cruise ships safer.
They also plan a wrongful death lawsuit against Princess Cruises, owners of the Bahamas-registered Star Princess.
The official report on the fire, published Oct. 23 by the British Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), placed the blame on an unknown smoker whose cigarette ignited plastic partitions and furniture on one of the stateroom balconies surrounding the exterior of the ship. While room sprinklers kept the blaze from spreading to the interior, choking black smoke from the burning plastic blocked inboard escape routes.
Awakened by fire alarms shortly after 3 a.m., Liffridge and Vicky struggled out of their stateroom and into a hallway, but failed to reach fresh air. Vicky was one of 13 people later treated for smoke inhalation.
Liffridge succumbed to the toxic fumes, his death at first attributed to a heart attack.
The picture of health
“I said, ‘Yeah, right,” Henry said of the news her father had died of a coronary.
At the age of 72, Liffridge had the look and energy of a man 10 years his junior. He was self-conscious about his weight, so he ate properly and exercised regularly at a basement gym in his Locust Grove, Ga., home, Henry said. Her father enjoyed traveling and he and Vicki rarely missed the chance to socialize with their friends.
The cruise was a belated celebration of Liffridge’s birthday, which had taken place March 11.
“He was at the peak of his life,” Henry said.
“Who would have thought he’d be celebrating his birthday and then have so much tragedy?” Norris said.
Although they stop short of accusing the cruise line of deliberate insensitivity, Liffridge’s children feel the Princess Cruise officials were slow to react to the aftermath of the tragedy. Even though Hudson was listed as an emergency contact, no one from the cruise line called to notify her, they said. They found out about their father’s death when their distraught stepmother telephoned from Jamaica, seven hours after the fire was extinguished.
The cruise line also seemed more interested in smoothing things over with survivors whose vacations had been interrupted by the fire than with helping her family, Hudson said.
“They were focused on taking care of people who were inconvenienced, not on the family of the man who died,” Hudson said.
While the cruise line made sure the Star Princess’ passengers got a rebate for the incomplete cruise and a discount on their next excursion, the Liffridge family had to pay to have their father’s remains returned to the United States, Hudson said.
A start, but more needs to be done
Cruise lines, including Princess, started replacing plastic balcony dividers and furniture soon after the Star Princess fire and are acting on additional MAIB recommendations that include posting extra fire watches aboard ship. The United Nations-sponsored International Maritime Organization also is set to discuss new balcony fire safety requirements this December.
But more needs to be done, according to the Liffridge family.
Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., is co-sponsoring legislation in Congress that would require cruise ships calling at U.S. ports to report incidents involving U.S. citizens within four hours. Working through the Liffridge Foundation, the siblings also hope to influence Congress to ban smoking on cruise ships, except within designated areas.
Despite these efforts, Hudson and her sisters and brother know they’re just reacting to an industry that failed to be proactive.
And although they realize their lobbying efforts and the wrongful death lawsuit, if successful, won’t bring their father back, it may help him rest easier.
“Our focus is to make sure this never happens again,” Hudson said.
“No amount of money will replace our loss,” she added. “The main thing for us is that another family does not have to go through this like we did.”
Lynnette Hudson - Joins The International Cruise Victims Organization
Mr. Liffridge's daughter Lynnette Hudson, who was appointed the personal representative of her father's estate, joined the International Cruise Victims organization. She was asked to testify before Congress and proposed recommendations to prevent other families from suffering through similar tragedies.
Her Congressional written submission to Congress can be viewed here.
Ms. Hudson later boarded the cruise ship after it had been repaired and inspected the external heat detectors and sprinkler systems which were installed after her father's death.
Ms. Hudson is shown pointing to the heat detectors and sprinklers. Although all Princess cruise ships have been retrofitted with sprinkler systems on the cabin's balconies, not all cruise lines sailing today have such safety systems.
In her Congressional testimony, Ms. Hudson expressed her fear that other families may face the risks of a cruise fire which killed her father:
"CLIA tells us that by the year 2010 twenty million passengers will sail on cruise ships. Visions of these passengers flicking their cigarettes over the rails as unsuspecting passengers are asleep in their cabins, with no fire detectors or sprinklers instantly comes to mind . . . "
What have cruise lines learned over the course of the last ten years? Is the cruise industry ready for the next fire on a cruise ship filled with several thousands of passengers?
Maritime & admiralty lawyer & attorney James M. Walker of Walker & O'Neill Law Firm, offering services related to injuries, sexual assaults, fires, negligence, rapes & disappearances on cruise ships, pirate & terrorist attacks, missing passengers, shore excursions, wrongful death and the Jones Act, serving cruise passengers, crew members, cabin attendants, utility workers, waiters, bar tenders, ship doctors and cleaners on cruise ships worldwide.
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